Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Diane Arbus - Revelations - chat to curator online

A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966<br />Copyright © 1971 The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC
London's Victoria and Albert Museum's latest major exhibition is 'Diane Arbus - Revelations'.

It is clear that some thought and effort has gone into the microsite. A very strong image dominates the homepage, immediately grabbing the attention of the site visitor and clearly identifying the content of the exhibition. Layout has been structured clearly with simple navigation on the left of the image and title, sponsor and dates on the right of the image.

Importantly, a telephone contact number is given strong prominence in a large font. The design also allows users with a screen resolution as low as 800 x 600 to view all the content at the same time. Exhibition overview, artist information, events programme, visitor information are all available and easy to find.

Brilliantly, there will be two online chat sessions giving users the opportunity to talk to curators from the exhibition. The first is on Friday 21 October from 2pm, the second on Thursday 8 December from 5pm.

Annoyances? The lime green font is hopelessly inappropriate for web use, rendering links and headings very difficult to read. Some of the text is unnecessarily presented in graphic format, such as the exhibition dates. The silly page transition effect just looks amateurish.

The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire

The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire is a new museum which opened on 1 October this year.

access icon
The most striking thing about the site is the commitment to accessibility: Government standard access keys, any page on the site can be read to you using the ReadSpeaker system, you can even telephone to have the pages translated for you. Alt tags are excellent throughout.

The only criticism would be the use of the redirect url http://www.thecollection.lincoln.museum/, hiding the true urls of the pages, preventing appropriate page titles being displayed.

The impetus for the adherence to accessibility is the fact that the museum is administered by a local authority, Lincolnshire County Council, who are obliged by law to adhere to strong guidelines.

It is often difficult for museum websites to retain their individual identity when they reside within local authority websites. We would always advise keeping both separate, however this issue is dealt with reasonably well here.

Issues arise from the use of the Accessibility home key, which takes the user to the council homepage rather than the museum homepage and the fact that the internal search engine produces results for the whole council website rather than simply for the museum.

Untold London

Untold London
Untold London is a new website from the Museum of London.

The expansiveness of the listings covering 'events and exhibitions across London that explore culturally diverse history' undermines the 'untold london' title of the website, it seems that these stories and histories are being told all over London by all kinds of fantastic organisations.

Great use is made of the database system, allowing users to specify events by timeframe and subject, see this search for 'events and exhibitions relating to the Caribbean in the next week'.

The collections section is relatively straightforward, archives currently has four articles concerning past exhibitions, hopefully it will be updated in the future.

Untold London is a collaboration between a number of organisations with experience in the London history and heritage sector and is based at the Museum of London.

24 Hour Museum
are 'consultants' to the project, providing technology and backup data. The clear and concise design of the site is very similar to that of 24 Hour Museum and its city guides and excels in usability and accessibility in the way we have come to expect from this group. Indeed, it is hard to see what new material this website contains that couldn't otherwise be accessed from within 24 Hour Museum.

Credits on the About Us page

Monday, October 10, 2005

Rachel Whiteread's Embankment installation at Tate Modern

'white boxes', snowcat, flickr
We were hoping that the unveiling of Rachel Whiteread's 'Embankment' installation in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall might be an excuse for Tate Online to produce another excellent timelapse film, as they did with the installation of 'Untitled (Rooms)' and 'Untitled (Stairs)' in 2001.

Instead we'll just have to make do with a biography, lengthy description and a link to Whiteread objects in the collection.

Its a nice, neat way to cover a single large-scale exhibit.

The Unilever-sponsored series of major installations in the Turbine Hall and have traditionally been very popular with photographers. It would be great to see Tate Online link to the inevitable Flickr photoset that will emerge, see those associated with previous installation Olafur Eliasson's 'The Weather Project'

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage opens today in Cleveland, USA. First impressions of their new website cause two distinct reactions.

Accessibility is very poor, flash is used for all elements of the site, text is small and broken up and cannot be enlarged. Images have neither alt tags or captions. Again, because its a flash movie, individual pages cannot be bookmarked by users or indexed by search engines.

It's a real shame the museum and the developers (Blue Robot I think) decided to go with flash as the content and layout of the site is excellent.

The press are well catered for with an archive of press releases and downloadable media kit. Important sections such as directions, contact, jobs and volunteering opportunities are clearly signposted in the navigation at all times.

Online calendars (no link - flash movie!) provide excellent information on the public education program.

At present there is the bare minimum of information concerning the contents of the permanent collection and exhibitions. Hopefully this will develop over time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

E-accessibility conference

From Egov Monitor:

21 October 2005, London
- One of the official events marking the UK Presidency of the EU, this pan-European conference plans to bring together decision-makers, industry and stakeholder groups to discuss the European Commission's forthcoming Communication on e-accessibility.