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The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection

People's Choice:
1 vote




1) Indiana State Museum; 2) Allen County Public Library


Williams Randall Marketing


Research | Online Collection

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The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection was founded in the 1920s in Fort Wayne, Indiana. By December of 2008 it had become one of the largest private collections of Abraham Lincoln-related material in existence, and was donated to the people of Indiana by Lincoln Financial Group. Today the Collection is housed in two institutions, the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This allows the Collection to live on in its entirety, available to the public in various exhibits at all times.

In 2011, Williams Randall partnered with the Indiana State Museum and the Allen County Public Library to design and develop a website that is home to the digital archives of the Collection. As one of the world’s leading resources of Lincoln content, the site is expected to draw visitors globally.  

The central technical challenge of building the Lincoln Collection website was integrating three separate databases into one seamless, user-friendly website interface. The three databases are where the Collection objects had been cataloged for several years, in preparation for public publication. Through a lot of creative problem-solving, we established a platform where all the data meets and is exposed to website visitors in a way that is unified, searchable, usable, and engaging.

Once we were beyond the technical challenges, we moved onto the central content challenge of the Lincoln Collection website, which was how to speak to extremely diverse audiences on one website. We understood that Abraham Lincoln is the kind of unique historical figure that appeals to people at every level of education and demographic background, with no limits on age or income or academic needs. Therefore, we decided we should start out by talking to them in real life, to gather user feedback. We spoke first-hand to three primary audience groups to understand how they hoped to interact with the site and what kind of experience was most important to them: 1) established Lincoln scholars, 2) educators at the middle and high school levels, and 3) casual history enthusiasts. Through their extremely frank and informative feedback, we architected a sitemap that had something for everyone. We made sure that the Collection objects were front and center, and searchable by multiple types of criteria. We also created many interactive, engaging, and fun features for the website where serendipitous discovery could unfold. Lastly, we reserved a targeted space on the site to deliver classroom-ready materials to educators.

The website design has a tone of stateliness but also has an inviting and accessible undertone. We wanted everyone to enjoy being on the website. While we’re very happy that these valuable, educational records are now available to the public, we are also excited that in 2012 multiple new features will be rolling out on the website; they are detailed below. Object Object Categories

Finding Object Records

The online Lincoln Collection contains nearly 19,000 object records (and growing), so in order to make individual records as “findable” as possible, the website offers several paths based on many types of criteria by which website visitors can narrow down the search. 

First, there are filters: Object Categories, Materials (or Media), Object Origin Date, Object Creator / Author, and Most Popular

Second, there are human-curated groupings that allow visitors to jump into a Lincoln-related topic and branch out a search from there.

Third, the site has a robust search engine that returns relevant results based on either a simple search, or an advanced search. Curated Groupings of Curated Groupings of Objects

Digital Records (18,895) Object Object Record

As the “heart” of the Lincoln Collection website, we wanted the object record pages to be as usable as possible. They are uncluttered and utilitarian, and the hero image (if one exists) is the most prominent page element. The data record is displayed, along with utilities such as a printer-friendly “Print” style in the CSS, a convenient “Copy Link” button for quick bookmarking, and a “Share” menu for easy sharing across multiple social networking platforms as well as email.

Sample object detail pages: Signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation; Tad Lincoln's Myriopticon Toy; The last "from life" portriat of Lincoln Online Online ExhibitionsSpecial Presentations / Curated Exhibitions
In addition to the database records, the site is also intended to have great educational and entertainment value, which requires curation. By spring 2012, the site will contain three fully curated exhibitions, a complete Lincoln Timeline, a Surprise Me! random object selector, and a uniquely concepted “Lincoln Kaleidoscope” that creates an endless web of Collection objects, each connected to the next through a little known commonality. Kaleidoscope
Upcoming Features in Spring 2012
  • Additional tools and content for educators
  • Log in / user accounts (create your own “curated collections,” or lists of saved object records)
  • Ask an Expert form and Q&A archive
  • Expansion of the Kaleidoscope with more object records
  • Additional exhibitions












Thank you very much!

Grace Stoeckle

Information Architect at Williams Randall Marketing in Indianapolis, Indiana

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