Digital Story Critique #8: The King Center

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the eighth post within a series of critiques on digital stories that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

This week’s critique is on the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change website, or more specifically, the digital archive titled The King Center Imaging Project.  This digital archive brings the works and papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to a digital generation.  JP Morgan Chase & Co. began the project in April of 2011 with the intent to preserve, digitize and make some of the extensive holdings of The King Center Archive collection available to the public.  More than 1 million documents (and counting) has been digitized by a team of highly skilled imaging and archival experts organized through the JP Morgan Chase’s Technology for Social Good program.  Main Site

I chose to critique this project because I have never seen anything quite like it!  I lost myself in some of the most heartbreaking moments in history and came away feeling intrigued and inspired.  The digital archive explains it best:

There are nearly a million documents associated with the life of Martin Luther King Jr. These pages will present a more dynamic view than is often seen of Dr. King’s life and times. The documents reveal the scholar, the father, and the pastor. Through these papers we see the United States of America at one of its most vulnerable, most honest and perhaps most human moments in history. There are letters bearing the official marks of royalty and the equally regal compositions of children. You will see speeches, telegrams, scribbled notes, patient admonitions and urgent pleas. Get a glimpse of the remarkable history within this collection.


Archive Screenshot
To critique this piece, I used the following traits from Jason Ohler’s “Assessing digital stories, new media narrative“:  1.) story, 2.) project planning and 3.) presentation.Themes Drop-Down

  • Story – Obviously, the stories behind these documents are heartbreaking and yet quite phenomenal.  But I do have one small critique of this project…a part of me wishes there were pieces put together in much smaller collections so that I could see a specific story unfold.  There is just so much to see and click on and I felt a bit overwhelmed at times.  I do appreciate the Themes and Types of Content drop-down menus though.  It was interesting to select a topic and see what it all entailed.
  • Project planning – I can only imagine the amount of planning that had to go into a project as extensive as this.  I loved finding out that it was organized through JP Morgan Chase’s Technology for Social Good program because I imagine they had some incredible resources and a large budget to cover the project.  There are so many pieces to building something like this and the back end and behind-the-scenes planning must have taken quite some time!
  • Presentation – This entire project was presented in such a beautifully unique way.  The project managers behind this had a fantastic idea to create something so visually compelling.  When you look at the website, the images are so clear and crisp that you feel like you could almost reach out and touch the documents.  Having them laid out like a collage gives the whole site such an artistic quality and makes you want to reach out and spread out the documents with your hands.  It almost makes you feel like you’re sitting in the actual library with these beautifully preserved documents all around you.  Zoom In

This is a wonderfully done project of the utmost importance and it was a pleasure to spend time sifting through the documents.  The stories held within this digital archive can now be read and viewed by anyone across the world, all they need is internet access!  It’s incredible to think about what the digital age can accomplish and proves even more the importance of digital storytelling.

*All images from here.