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Barn-raising: Building a Museum Website Using Custom Wiki Tools

TitleBarn-raising: Building a Museum Website Using Custom Wiki Tools
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHelal, D., Henslee B., & Michaelson D.
Secondary TitleMuseums and the Web
Conference Start DateApril 13-17, 201
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedDenver, Colorado, USA
EditorTrant, J., & Bearman D.
Keywordsagile development, authoring system, collaboration, modular, Ruby on Rails, Web site, wiki

The new is a modular wiki that serves as both an authoring system and an interface among Museum staff, curators, artists, and the public. Created in collaboration with the graphic design partnership Linked by Air, developed with the Economy content management system, and built in Ruby on Rails, the site is authored and managed by Whitney staff across departments. Our primary goals for the new Web site were to leverage the Whitney's rich resources and a variety of voices within a cohesive site design that meets visitor expectations for style and quality. Linked by Air developed an easy-to-use, lightweight authoring system to bring the Museum's assets to the forefront and ensure that the Whitney's Web site is a living organism that evolves in visual, functional, and structural ways. The project included a year-long development process that could be described as a Museum-wide barn raising. This approach offered an unusually high degree of organic flexibility to accommodate the Museum's current and future growth.While Wikipedia is the best-known example, and wikis have been used for different purposes by a handful of museums, there are few, if any instances of a museum using an internal wiki as the core of a public-facing Web site. This paper examines the use of wiki systems, and charts the evolution of the Whitney's site and the parallel agile development of its wiki software, along with the challenges faced and lessons learned. It also explores this wiki's potential as a dynamic platform for future community-building.