This NULab blog series, “Meet the Method,” serves to showcase some of the DITI’s publicly available learning resources. This installment focuses on WordPress.
Written by Emily Sullivan
There’s an age-old adage among Rhode Islanders: you either grow up in RI and settle there forever, or move out and don’t come back. It’s the smallest state and it’s full of (in my opinion, charming) quirks: giving directions by landmarks (especially used-to-be-there landmarks), running into someone you know everywhere you go, exhibiting intolerance for car rides longer than 30 minutes, and engaging in heated local debates—like the Del’s lemonade vs. Mr. Lemon controversy. In Rhode Island, we eat things like Iggy’s doughboys and quahog stuffies and party pizza (sauce and no cheese), wash it all down with coffee milk, and grab a “crazy vanilla” ice cream cone from Newport Creamery for dessert. The “you either stay forever or leave forever” proverb gets at the heart of Rhode Island’s magnetic specificity, a place with such strongly cultivated culture that living there feels like being part of an inside joke, giggling through the chant, “if you know, you know.”
I grew up in Rhode Island and stayed there until 2022, when I moved to Boston to pursue my master’s degree at Northeastern. Since then, I have felt increasingly interested in the interconnectedness of space, geography, culture, and memory—learning the Bostonian ropes has only continued to pique this curiosity, confirming even more how different it is to live in and belong to one place versus another. As someone interested in storytelling and visual culture, I wanted to find a way to represent my own movements through Rhode Island, to capture the little corners I have found meaning in, to chart its spaces both beautiful and ordinary.
There are certainly multiple methods I could employ in this venture, like using StoryMaps for a more literal mapping of my spatial memories; however, I really wanted to engage the fragmental aspect of memory, depicting my personal experiences of living in Rhode Island through a gallery-like collection of images. After perusing the DITI’s collection of slides and handouts, each containing detailed instruction on varied digital tools, I decided that creating a website would best accomplish the goals I had for this project. Under the “website building” tab, I found a handout entitled “Introduction to WordPress.” I also looked at the DITI’s “sample course modules,” and under the “introduction to website building” tab, there were three helpful example modules tailored to specific classes. If you’re a Northeastern faculty member or graduate student, you can also obtain access to the full archive of DITI teaching materials via Canvas Commons; contact the DITI Team if you need assistance navigating the Canvas page.
I wanted to keep my website simple, so I created one “page” that would dually introduce the website and host the gallery itself. When designing my page, I first chose the (free) “Dawson” theme offered by WordPress, since it is advertised as a theme tailored for photos, and I liked its aesthetic simplicity. I then navigated over to the “+” icon in the top left (next to the WordPress logo), which offers tons of options for additions to your site; I scrolled down and clicked on “gallery”. Once my photos were uploaded, they populated in my “media library” on WordPress. Before officially adding them to my gallery, I made sure to write in “alt-text” for each photo. The option to write alt-text appears as a text box in the right hand column entitled “attachment details.” You can also add captions to your photos. The DITI has a handout on accessibility that you can reference while making your own website to ensure equitable and considerate content creation. In selecting which photos I would use, I decided to stick strictly to spaces and places, rather than more explicitly photographed “moments” within those places (e.g., a picture of the camping site rather than a group snapshot of my friends and I occupying it). Although there are no explicit chronological markers, the photos do descend roughly in order from 2014 to 2024 (while still retaining some level of fragmentary jumble, with seasons intermixed). You can view the complete website on WordPress, titled “A Rhode Island Gallery.”
WordPress is endlessly editable. Now that I’ve started this website, I can always come back to it and add more photos, or perhaps expand its design—maybe down the line, I’ll combine the textual and visual and write a few testimonial vignettes to partner with the pictures. Either way, this digital gallery serves as a sort of geographic time capsule for me, and perhaps as an invitation to Rhode Island newcomers who are dipping their toes into the particular colors and contours of our little state.