The MDI Historical Society has been an important part of our island for decades. Their website has a lot of interesting archival information, everything from listings of who is buried in different cemeteries to historical documents about Acadia National Park’s formation.
When you have this much information collected in one place, getting it all organized in a way that’s also user friendly can be a daunting task.
With some information archived in Past Perfect (a database for historical catalogs), some on external websites, and some on the MDI History website itself, we took on the task of getting people to the information they need while also giving them a pleasing design that matches their branding.
Branding That Is Clear
When you go to the homepage of the new site, one of the first things you see is their branding (with the Selectman’s Building and the Somesville Bridge outlined in a way that’s a bit more engaging). It also helps with user-friendliness in terms of orienting people to the site upon arrival.
The older version displayed a slideshow of the “Acadia Then and Now” photo series from the Acadia National Park Centennial celebration (photo composites were done by Anthony Palumbo, with support from Bar Harbor Historical Society & MDI Historical Society). This is a really cool photo series, and you can read more about the project here. It’s a bit more difficult to find what your options are as far as getting information.
A Research Page To Get Visitors Started
Speaking of finding things, another thing the new website offers is a “Research” page that serves as the focal point for the different types of offerings on the website. Before, it was not so clear to the average person where they should go to find Census Records or peruse the Champlain Society Collection. The Research Page is the ultimate navigation point- no matter what you’re looking for, this page is the compass to point you in the right direction.
The page itself describes what content you’ll find in Collections, Catalog, and Historical Resources (which is helpful if you’re not necessarily familiar with how historical records are archived). The menu on the right side of the page further helps with navigation and gives a clearer understanding of where to go for specific information (there’s also a “Search” bar at the very top of the page if someone gets truly stumped).
Accepting Donations, Selling Publications, And Otherwise Monetizing Unique Offerings
Another thing that’s available on the new website is the ability to accept credit cards for various things like memberships (which are given with anyone giving a donation of $20.00 or more annually), dual memberships with Seal Cove Auto Museum, event tickets, and purchasing publications. As you might imagine, a lot of these publications are niche and not necessarily wide-spread, which can make them difficult to find but having them available to purchase right on the site means more exposure and a greater chance of selling.
Utilizing Volunteers With On Demand Video Training
Although people looking at the site “from the outside” can’t see this, the new site is set up to make it easier to have website volunteers get set up. Some projects, like writing unique page titles and descriptions for each page on the site to improve SEO, are something that an intern can tackle. There’s a list of future projects, along with training videos, for reference, so it’s a lot easier for people to volunteer. We made MDI Historical Society a video collection for easy volunteer training.
Fun, Accessible Information For All With Internet Access
Other cool things to check out on this site include the Genealogy Project, which is an effort to share the genealogy of families on Mount Desert Island. Check out the list of last names, you never know if a good chunk of your family history is on there!
Another thing that I didn’t know about before delving into the MDI Historical Society’s site is that there’s actually a documented list of all the “named” cottages on MDI. Not only do you see the names and when they were purchased, but anytime the ownership changed hands (it’s a neat history lesson, from back in the days when people gave their home a name). Here’s an example of one I found particularly interesting:
If you have something you want to add to any of the archives, each page has information on “How to Contribute” (meaning you don’t have to remember the page you saw that thing on).
Congratulations to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society on their new site and all the great work they are doing to preserve the history of a very special place.