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American Art Museum - Head of New Media

It was bound to happen. Iconoclast that I am. Most people are opening up their own businesses and becoming their own bosses. I, on the other hand, decided to take my first full time, 9-5 job as Head of New Media Initiatives for the Smithsonian American Art Museum! My story begins about two years ago.

I was attracted to the American Art Museum for numerous reasons. The museum's director, Betsy Broun, has been interested the intersection of technology and museum issues since the web began. The museum was developing a team to help it integrate new media throughout the museum. In addition, the museum is temporarily closed for 2-3 years, beginning in January 2000, while its building is being renovated. The museum is, however, remaining open virtually during that period, developing online exhibitions and continuing to offer online research and educational programs. New Media Initiatives is be responsible for designing and maintaining these sites.

Here are some of the projects we've completed so far:


Smithsonian American Art Museum
Main Web Site
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum Main Site

The design objective of this site was to represent the museum and its resources in an clear and accessible way. Our viewers run the gamut from "lovers of art" to researchers, students, and teachers so we wanted the design and architecture to clearly indicate where our resources and collection could be found.

This is the third redesign of our site since I began working at the museum. Unlike previous redesign efforts, which were largely graphic, increased needs for more dynamic content required a new information architecture and a restructuring from the backend up.

There are six different splash screens, each highlighting one of our artworks and each randomly generated by a session variable. The image you get on the splash is continued on the header graphic on the lower content pages. New art pieces can be inserted whenever we want to highlight different works. This makes for a consistent and fresh looking site.

Our Web design efforts are presently featured in The Virtual Museum, an article appearing in the March/April 2004 issue of Communication Arts Magazine.




Catlin Classroom
Campfire Stories with George Catlin

Campfire Stories with George Catlin

Campfire Stories is a virtual journey to meet American Indians of the 1830s with artist, ethnologist, and showman George Catlin. Using art, artifacts, and primary source texts to bridge American history, geography, art appreciation, environmental conservation, and multicultural studies, this flash-based site was designed with our Educational department for middle and high school classes.

This site was awarded the Best Education Web Site at the 2003 Museums and the Web Conference, the 2003 Gold Medal Muse Award from the American Association of Museums, and was a finalist in the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.




Treasures
Treasures to Go

Treasures to Go

While our building is closed for renovation the museum is traveling eight theme shows of work from our collection. The Treasures to Go web site is their online counterpart. All 505 artworks can be viewed along with itineraries for the exhibitions at all 70 venues around the country. The site was designed to grow as we receive reviews and photographs from the various museums showing our work.





1001 Days and Nights of American Art
1001 Days & Nights
of American Art

1001 Days & Nights of American Art

In addition to showcasing our collection, we wanted to create a fun and dynamic feature. Since we are to be closed for approximately 1001 days, we developed a monthly calendar of art facts, features, information about artists, and other timely American Art factoids. Appropriately, we call this 1001 Days & Nights of American Art (the web, of course, is open 24/7!).

Every month our museum team of curators, researchers, publication specialists and new media folk put together a new calendar. This is definitely a team effort. Using databases, all members of the team can quickly see, add to, and correct new web content. I see web development as a set of social constructs. Databases have allowed us to communicate with each other and reduce development time, from concept to launch. The main web site's redesign, Treasures to Go, and 1001 Days & Nights of American Art all were completed within a 3 month time frame. Even we were surprised!




An Edward Hopper Scrapbook
An Edward Hopper Scrapbook

An Edward Hopper Scrapbook

An Edward Hopper Scrapbook offers a glimpse into Hopper's life, his friends, and paintings. This site was done in concert with the museum's exhibition Edward Hopper: The Watercolors, but is not a direct reflection of the show. In addition to seeing his work, one can catch glimpses of his courtship and marriage to Jo Nivison, read letters to their friends, and follow his career from the first exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum to the major retrospectives late in his life. We decided a scrapbook design was a good way to convey these personal aspects of his life and career.




Abbott Handerson Thayer
Abbott Handerson Thayer

Abbott Handerson Thayer

Abbott Handerson Thayer presents paintings, watercolors, drawings, and studies from this Gilded Age artist on the sesquicentennial of his birth. This site was meant to be a simple reflection of the museum's real exhibition on Thayer's work.




Robert Cottingham
Eyeing America
The Prints of Robert Cottingham

Eyeing America:
The Prints of Robert Cottingham

This site was done in conjunction with an exhibition of Robert Cottingham's photorealist prints at the NMAA. We worked directly with the artist to design a "cross-country American tour" to places Cottingham used as source material for many of his prints. Each page in the On the Road section is a stop on the tour, where the artist shows us source photographs and discusses the genesis for each of his images.

The More to It! section of the site uses Cottingham's work as a starting point for the discussion of broader art and social issues.





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