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Archives & Museum Informatics



The National Gallery of Australia

Andrew Powrie, National Gallery of Australia, Australia

Session: Demo Session 2

The National Gallery of Australia recognizes the Internet’s function regarding cultural institutions. The Gallery’s web site disseminates information about its exhibitions, events and collection globally. This has been achieved through a number of strategies, which include a direct connection to the Gallery’s internal collection management system, the digitization of works from the Gallery’s collection, exciting exhibition pages and an e-commerce site.

The searchable database available on the Gallery’s web site is a key feature of the site. It is directly linked to the internal collection management system and enables users to access text on the entire collection. Furthermore, the Gallery has made significant inroads into the daunting task of making the collection digitally available. This considerable achievement has been made possible by the generous support of the Gordon Darling Australasian Print Fund. To date, the Gallery’s complete collection of prints, posters and illustrated books from the Australasian region have been digitized. 16,000 images of works can be accessed from the Gallery’s web site, subject to copyright clearance.

The Gallery has also made noteworthy gains in the digitizing of works from the other parts of the collection. A feature of the Gallery’s web site is the Aboriginal Memorial Poles. The site offers a virtual 360 degree panorama of the burial poles using ‘Quicktime VR’ and includes extensive information on the artists, environment, rituals, stories, kinship, Arnhem Land as well as images and details of fauna and flora species.

The exhibition section of the web site aims to enhance the exhibition program as well as keep a record of past, present and future shows. All the Gallery’s exhibitions over the past two years have had information and images published about them on the web. Nine of these exhibitions have had major sites designed for them. Of these, the ‘Ballet Russes’ site has been the largest and most content-rich exhibition to date. This site incorporates the use of video material as well as featuring other interactive components, such as an online jigsaw puzzle. More recently, the ‘Dog’ web site (based on the children’s exhibition) has been constructed to include interactive and downloadable components that encourage children to creatively explore aspects of the exhibition’s theme. Also very popular is the digital recording of the Monks Mandala, which has made possible the revisiting of an otherwise ephemeral event.

The National Gallery of Australia’s web site recently developed an online shop which allows the purchase of items related to the Gallery’s collections and exhibitions. A secure link enables this unique and innovative service to be widely available throughout the world. Currently there is no other Australian museum or art gallery with a real time e-shop in operation.

In summary, the National Gallery of Australia has an exciting and visually stimulating web site. The site is both informative and interactive and aims to provide public access to the Gallery’s collection and events. The features mentioned above, however, are only the beginning of a project that will continue to expand into the future.