Cherishing a Story Begins with Understanding: Inviting Eager Minds to Get Curious
Nearly two centuries ago, a circle of illustrious Kentuckians banded together with single-minded dedication: protecting and upholding the vivid history of the Commonwealth. Dr. Thomas D. Clark, a crucial chronicler of Kentucky’s historical records, made sure there was an archive of pivotal documentation to preserve; having saved all kinds of military records across three major battles: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War.
Acclaimed as a Kentucky Historian Laureate for life, Dr. Clark already had a vision for a panorama of Kentucky living worth preserving. As far as Dr. Clark was concerned, the citizens of Kentucky had well cemented their instrumental “place in history decade by decade, and incident by incident;” and they’d done so exemplifying absolute resilience: “always with the winds of change blowing strongly in their faces.” A rescuer and champion of Kentucky’s storied past, Dr. Clark’s conscientious efforts ensured: printed accounts of Kentucky’s core beginnings would be able to live on; no matter what “winds of change” might swirl next.
Dana Zinger, Director of Marketing Communications for the Kentucky Historical Society, illuminates, “Since 1836, the public has entrusted the Kentucky Historical Society to be the keeper of the Commonwealth’s legacy. The Kentucky Historical Society has continued to reimagine this commitment, deepening it to help Kentuckians recognize history’s value and use it to address the enduring social, economic, and sustainability challenges facing us today.”
The Value of Bringing the Best of Kentucky’s Past Beaming into an Open Future
KHS envisioned a compelling digital platform; a space that could continue to breathe vitality into history; with an insight into the ways Kentucky’s stories have lived through its people; dynamic and ever-moving.
From the inception of the Kentucky Historical Society, “the founders [...] recognized it wasn’t enough to collect and preserve Kentucky’s past — it must be shared with the public. Traditionally done through scholarly publications and museum displays, technology now provides unprecedented access,” explains Zinger.
“Today, KHS is many things: a library, a museum, an educational institution, and a research center,” imparts Zinger, noting: “We oversee three historic sites and protect a treasure trove of documents and artifacts for the public.” A key advantage of connecting with an arsenal of contemporary resources: “KHS is never closed.” Zinger affirms that the organization’s “online presence allows us to be ‘open’ 24/7; so people can experience Kentucky history when it is convenient for them.”
Allowing for a digital voice that could speak through phases of tech evolution, Zinger feels cognizant that “visitor use and behaviors change over time.” As such, she believes, “With more and more people turning to technology to access our archives and educational programs, our website needed an update to meet current trends.” KHS understands, “A modern website is search-engine optimized.” To make space for a growing audience’s contemporary needs, KHS wanted to extend the opportunity for more learners of all ages to discover Kentucky’s unique history. Zinger asserts, “Our goal is to be top of mind for anyone exploring Kentucky’s history — worldwide.”
Cultivating a New Website: Handing History’s Luminous Torch Blazing Forward
The soul of Kentucky has been courageously shaped by its daring vigor; and for an agency built upon the zest of Kentucky’s boldest stories, KHS needed a colorful online space to align with its forward-thinking potential.
After all, “History is alive and part of everything we do,” shares Zinger, adding, “To that end, we must engage with our audiences to ensure activities are active, learner-driven experiences that introduce historical information and demonstrate the historical discovery process.”
For the Kentucky Historical Society, revamping the site to allow for a straightforward, user-oriented journey would be key. “Our tools and resources must be intuitive so the users can focus on gaining insight into issues and opportunities facing our Commonwealth and the world,” explains Zinger, who pinpoints, “Access to resources, ease of finding visitation information, visual appeal, and usability are all critical.”
Keep in mind, “At the heart of it all, we are a network of people dedicated to preserving and exploring Kentucky’s rich and fascinating past and then using the power of history to improve life today,” says Zinger. The Kentucky Historical Society trusted Hatfield Media with past and future, where our team diligently set to work, revitalizing the KHS site without erasing its singular voice. The new website design and development feature “sections dedicated to all our areas of work,” highlights Zinger, who appreciates the fresh “visually appealing video and Instagram feeds” along with a “good use of KHS color palette and photos.”
Above all, Dana Zinger signals “ease of access to resources” as mission-critical when shaping this redesign. “It’s the #1 reason people visit our site.” She believes this is what will resonate most with a devoted KHS audience as well as will help engage new users, amplifying awareness for Kentucky’s stirring roots.
An Industrious Foundation Behind the Scenes: Revitalizing a Historic Site with Digital Gusto
Winsor Jenkins believed a team must “collaborate to innovate.” With values inscribed upon our wall commending the importance of “creativity,” “humanity,” “innovation,” “growth,” and “integrity,” Hatfield Media is a team that leaps to innovate; and yet, our brightest innovation comes first and foremost from a well of thoughtful and eager collaboration.
Back-End Developer at Hatfield Media, Mark Russ, relished the opportunity to create something special for the Kentucky Historical Society, working alongside a dream team, all striving to unleash the best in this redesign. “Working on a government website felt exciting, especially with our talented team that makes collaboration easy. Our front-end developers can do a lot with just a mockup, building a framework that’s independent and reliable with laser-focus time.”
“Ray wrote the scope document for this, and I then looked through, offering additional thoughts. Together, we bounced insights, back and forth,” expresses Russ, who commends his colleague for elevating the process of collaboration; allowing back-end development to conjure up a robust framework, fit for an advantageous future. “Ray’s approach is clear, concise, and resourceful, and he’s got a bull’s eye on accurate estimations. As a former back-end developer, he knows how to think like one to ask the right questions; and knowing the right questions to ask is fundamental.”
Additionally, this rebuild beckoned forth a step away from “an older hosting platform to a modernized framework on modern cloud infrastructure (AWS),” explains Hatfield’s System Administrator, Daniel Nowlin. Nowlin notes that as a standout government project, this meant needing “to make strategic, vetted decisions” with regards to KHS’ new domain “to allow the transition to be as smooth as possible.”
Achieving a Vision with Record Pace: Crafting a Seamless Experience Comes Down to Precision
Creating effective results that fulfill a client’s top expectations isn’t just a matter of ingenuity — there’s strategy, enterprise, and efficient initiative to see an original, future-forward redesign fall skillfully into rejuvenated place. Russ notes that there’s a keen balance between infusing “reusable components” that share a structured codebase while implementing “unique functionality.” With savvy development, Russ is proud that “we can give the client exactly what they want — all within budget and right on time.”
It takes a dream team to shape a new site innovatively to life. Russ explains, “Front-end developers convey what they need to create, and it’s my role to find out if our existing functionalities cover what they’re asking for. If not, our back-end team goes in, extending our code to support what front-end development needs. Sites often have unique requirements that occasionally require making changes to our CMS. The advantage is that adding new functionality to our codebase means every website receives the enhanced features.”
With KHS’ finely tuned image gallery, Russ set out to ensure this redesign would shine picture-perfect. “I worked closely with front-end development to make sure each image on Kentucky Historical Society’s website would work on the module they needed. Because of this project, there is now a simple and seamless method to request image-data for a particular module, so images can be cropped in a certain way; and any front-end developer can now request this through our API. We can crop these in a single request. All our websites now support this.”
Moreover, Russ adds, “I also framed the website, analyzing Ray’s scope document and interpreting the data that needed to be collected and presented. This meant coming up with a way to effectively group out the necessary data and break it out into modules. Next, I wrote code that could hold and present this, going through and laying out the data stores with some structural components. This way, front-end could go through and flesh it out.”
So much creation and innovation spark website wonders that a user doesn’t see at first sight; but certainly feels with the results: the ease of a streamlined user journey. It takes a lot of devoted minds and imaginative thinking to make a modern website feel effortless and inviting to any user across-the-board. Russ affirms, “Back-end creates the foundation you don’t actually see — we make things work.”
Vaulting into the Future: Allowing Kentucky’s Colorful History to Connect, Inspire, and Soar
Leaning into the Kentucky Historical Society’s new vision felt fulfilling; and with KHS’ trust in Hatfield, our team thrived, turning changemaking history into an intriguing online space; complete with a digital voice ready to captivate the masses. When reflecting on the polished outcome, a new website infused at its core with the Kentucky Historical Society’s enthralling spirit, Zinger illuminates, “We are pleased with the site and feel KHS is well represented, and our brand is intact throughout the site.”
Director of R&D, Raymond Tri, cheers, “Our collaboration with the Kentucky Historical Society has been tremendous,” highlighting: “There's a dichotomy of strengths that works really well — on one hand, an organization that is devoted to maintaining and preserving the past, and on the other hand, an organization that is devoted to staying ahead of the curve and driving advancement. This blend of strengths gives us a recipe for ensuring the preservation of and access to the history we all have far, far into the future. Multiple other projects have spawned out of the original website rebuild and we're really thrilled to be the provider for them.”
For Account Representative, Kayla Coursey, witnessing KHS’ mission and vision up close made for a thrilling experience that flowed right into the passion to help set this site up for ultimate success. “KY Historical Society has been a blast to work with since day one,” says Coursey, sharing, “The best part about this entire project was getting to go visit the location in Frankfort and seeing a bit behind the scenes. I would highly recommend going to visit the team at KY Historical Society!" Hatfield now hopes that any user who visits this revitalized site will feel the vibrant energy of KHS, and feel inspired to visit to connect further with all of Kentucky’s storied history.
Zinger finds “the Hatfield team was accommodating, attentive, and very easy to work with; and the support we continue to get is excellent!” KHS sees two particular triumphs as standout features for this modern new website: an Instagram gallery as well as a video gallery glimmering on the homepage.
With the impact of history continuing to soar forward, now kindled with future-fresh momentum, Tri gives a peek into an exciting future ahead: “There are going to be some really, really innovative ideas and programs coming out of the Kentucky Historical Society; and we can't wait for the rest of the world to see what's next.”