Fitzwilliam Museum Online Exhibitions


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Talk presented as part of Creating Online Exhibitions on 2 Nov 09 at the British Museum, run by the E-Learning Group for Museums, Libraries and Archives

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  • will look at some of these issues from the Fitzwilliam’s point of view why do we call some things online exhibitions but not others, although the content may be very similar is it an online exhibition because it is object based? online gallery in which to put an online exhibition – space in which a series of images is arranged for viewer labels and interpretive text but can also be much more – dynamic hyperlinked environment online exhibitions – subset of online resources value of the notion of an “online exhibition” – carrying through concept from physical to digital environment can be useful but also restrictive
  • example of something which shares a lot of the characteristics of an online exhibition but which we have chosen not to call an exhibition
  • podcasts are used for marketing (and developed by the marketing dept at the Fitzwilliam) but some are essentially small exhibitions in themselves or guides to exhibitions in the Museum could be argued that they are online exhibitions using video and audio rather than just images and text
  • produced by Duan Wu, an architect working on a PhD at Cambridge
  • move through the virtual space of the gallery into the representational space of the painting. Pieter Breughel the younger A Village Festival, With a Theatrical Performance and a Procession in Honour of St Hubert and St Anthony 1632
  • how helpful is the virtual exhibition does it really allow you to do more than is possible in a flat space more distracting than engaging, when viewed as part of a learning experience?
  • how helpful is the virtual exhibition does it really allow you to do more than is possible in a flat space create your own narrative experience, which sticks in the memory but cannot move so quickly between various elements of the resource more distracting than engaging, when viewed as part of a learning experience? unless spending a great deal of money will always be inferior in presentation to virtual gaming worlds
  • website survey conducted Dec 09 to March 09 not a large sample and wary about drawing too many conclusions over 18% respondents said they used the website to view online exhibitions or other online resources
  • problems of navigation most have a very linear concept of “exhibition” moving from one image to the next
  • introduced a template for online exhibitions around 2004 micro-site, maintaining the same type of navigational structure but moving from Fitzwilliam’s main navigation bar to a dedicated navigation bar
  • variations but sticking to the basic style relatively easy to create
  • several of the online exhibitions accompany small-scale gallery exhibitions, particularly of prints and drawings
  • from visitors’ point of view, we’ve found that online exhibitions are effective both as a marketing tool, encouraging visits and as a follow-up very close connection between use of the website and visiting the museum much less use as an at distance learning tool
  • presents information in a way that adds to and goes beyond just a basic catalogue record
  • results presented as thumbnail experimented with a number of different variations of results screen, some including captions would like to add more options to refine search by date and country of origin – but that is asking more of an already overstretched IT dept
  • individual catalogue record presented in the context of the online exhibition
  • illuminated manuscripts and bound volumes are prime examples fragile material that can only be displayed in a very limited way within a case
  • simple mouse rollover to switch between images of different states of a print or between images of a print under different lighting conditions to demonstrate the use of particular techniques and effects such as embossing, textile and woodgrain effects, mica sparkle and burnishing
  • Utamaro interactive – case study Insect book 1788 Shell book 1789 Flower book 1790
  • Fitzwilliam Museum Online Exhibitions

    1. 1. Online exhibitions <ul><li>The Fitzwilliam Museum </li></ul>
    2. 2. <ul><li>definitions </li></ul><ul><li>when is an online exhibition not an online exhibition? </li></ul><ul><li>is “online exhibition” a useful concept? </li></ul><ul><li>audiences </li></ul><ul><li>what proportion of website users look at online exhibitions? </li></ul><ul><li>substitute or support for a gallery exhibition? </li></ul><ul><li>sustainability </li></ul><ul><li>who develops them? </li></ul><ul><li>what budgets are available? </li></ul>
    3. 3. Pharos <ul><li>authored resource </li></ul><ul><li>written by art historian working for the education department in the Museum </li></ul><ul><li>curated as if an exhibition </li></ul><ul><li>thematic and chronological entry points into the collection </li></ul><ul><li>well suited to some parts of Fitzwilliam’s audience </li></ul><ul><li>potential to be dynamic – information branches – but limited by technical implementation </li></ul>
    4. 5. interactives <ul><li>Make use of multimedia to provide interpretation that would be difficult otherwise </li></ul><ul><li>linear </li></ul><ul><li>focus on process rather than object </li></ul><ul><li>online demonstration rather than online exhibition? </li></ul>
    5. 6. <ul><li>podcasts – online exhibition tours </li></ul>
    6. 7. virtual exhibition? produced by Duan Wu, Digital Studio, University of Cambridge
    7. 15. <ul><ul><li>currently 35 online exhibitions on Fitzwilliam website – growing need to curate the collection of exhibitions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the 5 th most visited part of the website over the last year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the most popular exhibition received 13,200 unique page views over the last year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>average amount of time on each page just under 1 minute </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 st online exhibition on Fitzwilliam website in 2001 – legacy resources that were produced prior to re-designing the website </li></ul></ul>
    8. 16. <ul><ul><li>a number of different staff work on the Fitzwilliam’s online exhibitions – benefits and challenges </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>majority are relatively low cost </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>template </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>built into budget for larger projects </li></ul></ul>
    9. 20. reasons for creating online exhibitions <ul><li>extends legacy </li></ul><ul><li>of research </li></ul><ul><li>undertaken for </li></ul><ul><li>gallery exhibition </li></ul><ul><li>and reach new </li></ul><ul><li>audience </li></ul>
    10. 21. <ul><li>marketing </li></ul><ul><li>pre or post-visit support for gallery exhibition </li></ul>
    11. 22. <ul><li>online exhibition regarded by visitors as one of the most important aspects contributing to their enjoyment of the Endless Forms site </li></ul>
    12. 23. <ul><li>“ Glue” for online catalogue </li></ul><ul><li>records, providing contextual </li></ul><ul><li>information that is of value for a </li></ul><ul><li>non-specialist audience </li></ul>
    13. 24. <ul><ul><li>using online catalogue records </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- direct call on database with results presented within context of online exhibition </li></ul></ul>
    14. 27. <ul><ul><li>presenting material in a way that may be difficult with the physical object </li></ul></ul>
    15. 28. <ul><ul><li>using interactive environment to demonstrate processes and effects </li></ul></ul>
    16. 30. <ul><li>aims </li></ul><ul><li>give gallery visitors access to all pages of Utamaro’s 3 great books on natural history themes </li></ul><ul><li>approximate the sensation of handling the books </li></ul><ul><li>go beyond the beautiful images </li></ul><ul><li>help users understand the context </li></ul><ul><li>create gallery interactive, extending to web if possible </li></ul><ul><li>access existing translations </li></ul><ul><li>commission new translation of the Shell poems – significant scholarly impact </li></ul>Utamaro interactive
    17. 31. <ul><li>production </li></ul><ul><li>decision to produce as Flash presentation – lower cost and more flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>new high resolution images created of the entire contents of the books </li></ul><ul><li>need to rebuild for web use with lower resolution images </li></ul><ul><li>decision to use mouse rather than touchscreen – more precision and allowed interactive animations </li></ul><ul><li>during production decided to translate all 3 books to be more consistent </li></ul><ul><li>translations facilitated with help from calligraphy specialists in Japan and shell identification by scientists in England, US and Japan </li></ul>Utamaro interactive
    18. 32. <ul><li>application </li></ul><ul><li>gallery interactive launched to coincide with gallery exhibition </li></ul><ul><li>web version followed one month later and has since been updated to incorporate fuller translation of Shell book </li></ul><ul><li>very good user feedback for gallery interactive and web version </li></ul>Utamaro interactive
    19. 33. <ul><li>technical limitations </li></ul><ul><li>not possible to set up so that click on one page would activate pop-up on facing page. Pop-ups sometimes cover the images that they relate to </li></ul><ul><li>only possible to zoom on predefined areas </li></ul><ul><li>the 3 books of different construction, with varying degrees of flexibility. The turning the pages effect is, however, the same in all </li></ul><ul><li>ideally want tools to create new interactives rather than develop as Flash files </li></ul>Utamaro interactive