Museums and the Web 2005
Demonstrations: Description
Photo Credits

See museum applications demonstrated by the people who created them.

Discovering Buddhist Art: Seeking the Sublime

Christina DePaolo, Seattle Art Museum, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 2

Discovering Buddhist Art: Seeking the Sublime is a kiosk and web site companion to an art installation on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum featuring over 100 works of Buddhist art in the museum's collection.

The lead educator for the Asian Art Museum had an interesting vision, she wanted a kiosk application that would let visitors watch videos of Buddhist monks performing sacred ceremonies on the objects on view so they could make connections between the works of art they were looking at and how they are used. For example, one of the videos documents a Sand Mandala ceremony that took place over several days in our garden court. She also wanted the experience to allow people to be able to view the museum's complete collection of Buddhist art (over 200 works) by subject, country, and medium.

To do this we built the interface in Macromedia Flash so we could integrate the media into the collection browse capability in a compelling way. We then had it pull up data directly from our collection database, TMS (The Museum System), so information could be updated dynamically. We did not want the interface to be bottom heavy where the user has to do copious click-throughs to get to the image of the object. So to solve that problem we did two things: we deployed Zoomify which allows you to zoom in and out of the image without leaving the main search screen, and we also created a visual navigation bar that brings up your object selections and any cross references on the same screen as well.

We worked very closely with the exhibition's educator and curator on the script for the interactive. The big challenge was to introduce a general audience to the concepts of esoteric Buddhism in a way that would not only make sense, but work well with the application layout to entice visitors to want to learn more while they are using the program.