I chose the Exploratorium exhibition, Never Lost: Polynesian Navigation. I was interested in the site mainly because I know nothing about the subject and was interested in how it would be represented. I’m also a big fan of the Exploratorium.

The site itself attempts (and, in my opinion, achieves) an immersive experience, opening with a haunting audio track that fades from conch shells and polynesian chants to the sounds of open sea, while the picture fades from black to a panoramic view of the ocean from a dugout canoe.

It would be highly unusual for a site with the word “Navigation” in the title to have put little thought into how it happens in the virtual world. As it turns out, the navigation scheme on the site is highly visual and well thought out. It’s not really possible to get lost. There is no real search to speak of on the site, as one is meant to progress through it, as if on a journey of their own. At any point, a user can jump to any of the four main categories (Origins, Canoe, Navigation, Voyage) through the global nav at the bottom of the page.

Each category page leads to other subcategories. Each category page has a visual representation, and subcategories are repesented by pictures as well. Clicking on any of them brings one to that subcategory’s page. One pleasant design note: the page is built to more across the x axis, wider rather than tall, which evokes the horizon and the vastness of the sea.

There is a great deal of video on the site, which speaks to the oral nature of their culture. In this way, there is not and could not be a large focus on authority data or record data. In essence this is a site that focuses on interviews and some archeological data, which is probably why the site is about conveying a set of personal experiences rather than scholarly quotations. Each category and subcategory, in fact, starts with a quote from an interviewee. There are also many engaging interactive pages which lead to other pages with video.

Though I found the site to very engaging and informative, I thought that they could have been well served with, at the least a set of links that could provide access to secondary information outside of the site. I could look up the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai’i or the Polynesian Voyaging Society because they were mentioned on the site and in the credits, but it wouldn’t be too hard to put in some hard links to them as well.

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