Over the last couple of weeks in class we’ve discussed what works and doesn’t work for a museum website, as well as what it means to have a good, in-depth collections page. Many of the students (including myself) have focused their attention on internationally known science or art museums, but for this post I’d like to focus on a university art museum, specifically the Weisman on the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis/St. Paul) campus. The museum resides on the Minneapolis side of the campus and the architect who designed the expansion of the building is Frank Gehry. The museum has existed since 1934 and the website says that part of their mission is to be a teaching museum for the university students.
The website is easy to use with tabs at the top of the page, which includes information on the museums history and its collections. The main page focuses on current exhibitions and events that are upcoming at the museum. The logo for the U of M is located clearly at the top left side of the page, so visitors immediately recognize the affiliation the museum has with the campus. It’s an informative page although I wish there was something a bit more eye catching for visitors on the site. There needs to be pictures or some kind of visual that makes people attracted to the idea of attending this museum. It’s best to give a hint at what’s in the museum so people feel the need to visit the physical location in order to see the rest of the galleries.
The Collections tab on the top of the page leads site-visitors to a page with links, each highlighting a focus in their collection. According to the website, their collection contains a large amount of American Modernism, ceramics, Korean furniture, and Mimbres pottery. When you click on each link, you are then taken to a page that has a couple photos of certain items in those collections and information on that specific grouping of art. The only information given on the specific highlighted pieces are the title, artist name, date, materials, and how it was acquired. The site is much more friendly to the general public instead of focusing on the needs of researchers. The museum’s site doesn’t offer specific information on the rest of their collection, except that their entire collection contains over 17,000 pieces. The collections part of the website could definitely be updated to provide more information on what specific pieces they own. Because they’re a teaching museum, this is something that could probably be worked on by student helpers. Even if it’s just a semi-slowly updated database on the most popular pieces in the collection, it’s still a step in the right direction. The website would be much more researcher friendly if they had more information on the collections that they hold.
Part of the website that I found to be a really good idea was the virtual tour of public art on the campus. While the technical aspect is a little confusing when your cursor goes over specific dots on the map, it’s a good attempt at showcasing the art around the U of M campus. For each piece you can click to get more information and more pictures of the pieces. It also tells viewers about specific installations near by. I’m unaware if they have a phone app with a similar concept, but this would be a good application to refer to when walking around the campus.
While the website is not perfect, it has a good amount of updated information being that it’s a university run museum. My main criticism would be updating the collections page and adding a little more pizzazz to the site as a whole to compel visitors to keep coming back. The virtual tour of public art shows that they are considering new ways to focus on art on the campus and adding ways to learn about their art through technology. University and college museums have a lot to focus on with typically a small support staff but as technology becomes more of a focus in our lives, these museums will need to give more attention to their websites and social media sites to gain more visitors.