For many museum visitors, it is not always clear that museums have very diversified activities. Nor is it obvious how they are reflected in the web presence. Below some excellent websites, with very different purposes, many of which have been awarded at Best of the Web Awards, organized by the conference Museums and the Web, www.archimuse.com/mw2010. Many of the websites come from the U.S., but also England and Holland.
Art Babble: www.artbabble.org is a gold mine for everyone interested in art and it’s a collaboration between the various art museums. This website is produced inhouse by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This website mediates art as well as make up a platform for curation.
www.philaplace.org Produced in 2010 by The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in collaboration with Night Kitchen Interactive. Phila Place is an online resource that creates commitment and convey local history in a lively way. The site is also an example of how museums are now starting to use external services like Google Maps. Phila Place is an example of how to build long lasting relationships with target audiences and at the same time be a channel for collecting stories.
Augmented reality finds its way into the museum sector. The Netherlands Architecture Institute has produced a 3D app for architecture: http://en.nai.nl/exhibitions/detailexpo/_pid/left1/_rp_left1_elementId/1_601695 And another example is the Museum of London’s app: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/MuseumOfLondon/Resources/app/you-are-here-app/index.html
Brooklyn Museum has early adopted use of social media in the dissemination of collections on the web. They are also working to link the digital and physical experience, an example is: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/click/
Further examples of crowdsourcing is: https://www.mos.org/fireflywatch/ and http://solarstormwatch.com. Both sites convey science for the general public and transform statistics into an engaging format. In particular, Solar Storm Watch has committed a huge audience.
A favorite is: http://kids.tate.org.uk/ that engage children and young people, and create encounters with art in the museum in a way which is not otherwise available to this audience. A website you don’t leave in a hurry.
A winner in the contest ”Best of the Web Award, category” Education ”, is http://www.moma.org/meetme/index the Museum of Modern Art. The museum would like to share good practices and experience of conveying art work toAlzheimer patients.
The fact that museums have collections is for the general visitor often quite irrelevant. It is also perhaps the most difficult part of the museum activities to convey. Here are some examples:
www.europeana.eu the great European portal which presents Europe’s heritage.
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ Historic Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Nordic Museum, Others Institutions: www.digitaltmuseum.se
Swedish National Heritage Board: www.kringla.nu
Of course it is very rare that large institutions produce websites all by themselves. The most successful web agency in the U.S. that work with the cultural heritage sector is www.secondstory.com Second Story, Portland, Oregon, that since the mid-1990s have presented website after website with a high standard and great innovation.
Finally: One size does not fit all as they say, and creating user centric experiences is a way of following that device. It’s possible to create niche websites and still remain interesting, an approach that many museums may have to take on. But to actually attract new audiences and to get the visitors to stay as well as return, museums need to stay well informed about the situations and conditions under which the digital stray visitor actually makes contact with, or encounter, the museum. Knowing your audience is central, and deciding what to focus on. There many cultural institutions still have a long way to go.