Traditional vs. New Museum Website Formats

By Alyssa Cupp and Annelise McKechnie


The website for the Smithsonian Natural History Museum ( is well designed.  The format of their website is clear and easy to navigate.  The information is also laid out concisely giving the viewer easy access to the information they are seeking.  There are good overviews of the different exhibits; which are informative, easy to understand and leave you wanting to visit the exhibit.  Another interesting ability the website has is that you can search different disciplines that are in the museum and see what artifacts the museum has pertaining to said discipline.  For example, if you were to look under archaeology you could find pictures and basic information on artifacts such as; where the artifact was found, who found it and when it was made.

In class we’ve discussed how education is playing a greater role in museums than it has in the past and like other museums we have talked about The Natural History Museum has integrated education into their website (  The Museum uses a website called Q?rius, which is a site specifically for teachers to help them plan visits to the museum.  There are suggestions on lesson plans to help create activities for students while at the different exhibits as well as online activities.  There are also links to more information on the exhibits that you can read before visiting the actual museums.  There are also different fieldtrip programs for classes to go on.  There are also different online mini tutorials about specific subjects pertaining to such topics as volcanic ash and tectonic plates.  I personally like the Natural History Museums setup, I like the straight forward way the information is available and accessible.


The Hirshhorn is another example of a museum website that was well put together ( As states, “as the most recent of the high-profile museum Web site overhauls, the Hirshhorn’s feels the most of-the-moment.” The site has an eye-catching square tile format that scrolls horizontally which resembles that of Windows 8. The website also has many images to give it a Pinterest vibe, which is a refreshing change. Even though it appeals more to the new generation it has a simplicity that the older generations would be able to grasp just as well. This format does a great job at representing the Hirshhorn for what it is-a contemporary art museum. The simple but bright white text and quotes on the wide range of tiles adds a nice clear touch as well.

The horizontal scrolling can become overwhelming and seem to never end, but if you utilize the tabs it can be an easy source to navigate. Any information one might want about the history of Hirshhorn is right there and easy to access. Two of the many useful tools the website provides are a collection search and also a library catalogue to further research materials and artists. Due to the Hirshhorn being part of the Smithsonian Institution the link ( to access the Hirshhorn’s library catalogue directs the user straight to the Smithsonian Library web page. This feature is nice to have, but may become confusing if the user is not aware of the connection between the two museums. The Hirshhorn has information on not only current exhibits but also past and future ones as well. Interviews of the artists can also be found and give the viewers a personal and in-depth description of the artists’ works. The museum itself is very interactive with Artlab+ ( a program to support teens in building their own creative communities), education programs for teachers, and work, intern, and volunteer opportunities.

The differences between the Smithsonian and the Hirshhorn museum websites are the ways they attract their audiences. The Smithsonian is a professional institution so it reflects that of its reputation on its website. The Hirshhorn on the other hand is up to date on technological advances, which is also a reflection of the museum. The Smithsonian focuses on student education, whereas the Hirshhorn works toward educating teachers. Although their layouts are different they are both easy to navigate and informative. Both museums did a fine job at knowing who their audience is and designed their websites accordingly.


Dramatic Trailer for the British Museum

Ok, so I guess I just inserted the dramatic movie trailer voice in my memories, which just goes to show how inaccurate memory really is. Maybe it would be cooler if the text were read in the movie trailer voice. In any case, this is a link to the British Museum page for their new exhibit “Ancient Lives”, where the video is embedded with some other interesting and useful pictures and links. 

But here’s the video, the main attraction, and I highly recommend you use the boxy button in the lower right hand corner to watch in full-screen mode. 


Welcome to the Beloit College Intro to Museum Studies Class Blog!

This will be the home of student posts, reviews, discussions, as well as comments and occasional posts by the professor (myself, Gwen Kelly).  Below are the instructions for how this blog will operate, and what you/the students are expected to do.


The blog for this course is intended to be an extension of and preparation for in-class discussions.  It is also a way to share the results of our projects, internet searches, and academic research, with each other, and with the wider community of Museum-auteurs.


The class will be broken up into three groups, A, B, and C, and each week you will rotate through different roles in contributing the class blog. Each week you will be either writer, editor, or commenter on blog posts. The deadlines are as follows:

Monday: Completed draft posts, on the subject for that week (by the group listed on the syllabus).

Wednesday: Completed edits and published posts.

Friday: Commenting group will read and reply to the published posts with thoughtful comments.

You will rotate through different roles in contributing the class blog. Each week you will be either writer, editor, or commenter on blog posts.

  • As writer you will be asked to do one of several kinds of blog posts, of around 500-1000 words:
  1. Critical reading response – an essay responding to some selection of the assigned readings for that week. What do the authors argue? How do they differ in their approach to the issues? What evidence and/or arguments do they use to support their position? What position do you take?
  2. Museum Exhibit Observation and Critique – an observational and critical essay based on your own visit to a museum exhibit.  Of all of the aspects, of display, informational plaques, audio-visual materials, community engagement, visitor experience and so on, what was done well in the exhibit, what was done poorly, and what would you do differently, and how?
  3. Review of an Online Resource – This may be a museum website, or other website dedicated to some aspect of ‘public’ history/archaeology etc., and/or ‘digital’ history/archaeology/humanities, etc., these might include blogs, home pages of researchers, research institutions, podcasts, youtube channels etc. You will consider how effectively these online/digital resources communicate with the public? Considering the same kinds of questions we evaluate for museums, how do these online resources compare? How would you change or improve the digital experience?
  4. Topic of your choosing – You must check with Prof. Kelly
  • As editor you will be required to read, edit, and revise (and work with the authors to revise) one of the week’s blog posts.
    • Things to read for include the coherence and structure, as well as spelling, grammar and punctuation.
    • For minor edits including spelling, grammar and punctuation, or word insertions and deletions, you as editor should make such changes yourself.
    • For content-related revisions,
  • As commenter you will be required to read and reflect on the posts of that week, and write a brief and thoughtful comment on each, of approximately 100-300 words.


Your participation in the blog (in all three capacities) is worth a total of 25% of your grade. Each week you will earn a potential of 10 points, this is the same whether you are a writer, editor, or commenter.


We will work together to develop the grading rubric for each role, to establish what will constitute the criteria which will be used to evaluate the blog contributions, and assign grades.