The online translation of this in-person museum experience, created prior to the Google Art Project, allows users to virtually explore the museum’s collection and follow custom tours that link artworks otherwise never seen together.

The design diminishes the concept of a traditional homepage with a landing page organized around the historic galleries and floors of the museum and showcases a mosaic of images leading to a selection of almost 300 art objects. Visitors can navigate by exploring all the artwork in a room or on a floor or explore a curated list within a theme.

The conventional pages are organized around the five curatorial areas of the Gardner Museum: Historic Art, Contemporary Art, Music, Landscape and Education. Pages include the more traditional collection database, providing basic data (title, description, artist, date, media, culture) and scholarly summaries of current art historical research for approximately 200 items. New Contemporary Art pages featuring past Artists-in-Residence and exhibitions are accompanied by an image slideshow for each artist’s residency and a Music Library searchable by musician, composer and genre builds upon the success of The Concert, the museum’s free classical music podcast.

• Creating grids dynamically with images of varying dimensions and quality was complicated; the solution was to align images horizontally so each row resizes to match the overall width.

• When the site initially loads, tiny compressed images are loaded as placeholders for content; so no one confuses the placeholders with the content, the images are stylized with a bluish tint and pixelation. If the browser is resized or an image is zoomed into, a higher res version loads in the background and the grid updates accordingly.

• Visitors can link directly to projects within Explore from an artwork’s HTML page, and save any artwork as a favorite in HTML or Flash.

• The database contains 2,512 image files for content and artwork, 540 artworks, 441 music files and 751 pages.

• The museum launched its social networking promotion through Facebook and Twitter and the site was shared more than 1,600 times.

• During the first month after launch, the site received 63,000 visits by 46,000 unique visitors and the average daily page views jumped from 7,000 to approximately 16,000 with an average visit time of 3:22. The most startling statistic was the decrease of the bounce rate from 44 percent to about 2.5 percent.

Communication Arts

// From our friends at Communication Arts

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