Museums and the Web 2005

Reports and analyses from around the world are presented at MW2005.

Websites that encourage input from users

Gail Durbin, Victoria & Albert Museum, United Kingdom

This list was assembled by members of a workshop run at Museums and the Web 2005 by Gail Durbin, Head of V&A Online


  • Am I hot or not? A rather crude site where people upload images of themselves and invite users to vote. But it is very simple and crying out to be adapted for museum use.
  • - Internet Movie Database goes in for quick polls, voting on films and reviews. It also allows agents to upload images of their clients.
  • The Red Studio - Quick opinion surveys are scattered throughout this MOMA site.

Comments and Opinions

  • Tate: Art Forum - Unmoderated comment page demonstrating all the problems of an unmoderated site.
  • Tate: Turner Prize Forum - Chance to disagree with the experts on who should and shouldn't win the Turner Prize. A moderated site.


  • Amazon: Lists - Lots of compelling lists created by users. Best when they are enlivened by individual comments.


  • Amazon: Reviews - Amateur reviews provide a counterbalance to the official reviews and comparison of several reviews helps decision-making on what to buy.



  • Nigella: Your Page - Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson allows cookery tips and recipes from visitors.
  • Amazon: So you'd like to .. - American Amazon has developed the user review into short articles on projects and the books that helped.
  • BBC: iCAN - BBC Community page has case studies from people who were successful in their community action.
  • V&A: Tattoo - 1500 visitors posed in one day for record shots of their tattoos which were then added to the Museum's archives.
  • BBC: Parents' Music Room - With music no longer a major part of the school curriculum in England and Wales this is a site where parents can share information and seek answers.
  • Wikipedia - Huge encyclopaedia created by users that just seems to get more detailed.
  • Every Object Tells a Story - Site seeded with objects and stories from the V&A and partner's collections to which visitors can contribute.
  • This site is about Brighton and Hove. On the site, people share their memories, photos, knowledge and opinions about the city - as it is today and as it was in the past. People are asked to identify themselves as residents, visitors, previous residents, teachers and descendants. There are over 1,800 pages about local places and topics, plus virtual city tours and an area map
  • Epicurious asks readers to up load recipes and often provides encouragement in the shape of a competition.

Discussion Forum

  • Wonderful site for Minnesota Artists supported by the Walker Art Gallery with intelligent forums and opportunities for artists to show their work
  • The British Medical Journal site is a model for sites that want clarity and debate. There is a whole section on the home page headed Interaction. This takes you to Rapid Responses, Q&A, Past Polls and Debates, Interactive Case Reports, Webchats and Blogs. Not all of these sections have recent contributions but all have a range of connected options include ‘Email this page to a friend’ facilities and links to connected topics.


Making Contacts


Art and photography: upload from original artwork sent to museum

Art and photography: digital image upload

  • Apple: icards - Apple regularly select a featured artist whose portfolio is made available as web cards.
  • BBC: Little Britain - Competition to design a flag for the comedy programme 'Little Britain'.
  • The Soap Gallery - Site contains a stunning gallery of the most imaginatively created bars of soap and methods for making soap. There must be a gallery activity in here somewhere!

Art and photography: upload after gallery activity

  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum runs an explorer’s club. Workshop participants make wonderful colourful carnival masks, yarn paintings and carp windsocks based on objects from the collection. Images from the workshops are uploaded to the web where there is a growing archive.
  • V&A: Things and You - 8,000 visitor's portraits of themselves and their families sitting on the Christine Keeler chair.
  • V&A: Every Object T-shirt Project - Examples of t-shirt designs created at the V&A when visitors were given a camera to photograph and then manipulate digital images.
  • V&A: Every Object: Trans-4-mations - Interesting experiments in the transformation of visitor to object based on the development of a previous project using props and the four shots taken in quick succession by photo booths.
  • SchoolNet Global is a huge site with pictures of large numbers of school projects. Short descriptions of the work is provided by the children who made it.

Art and photography: upload by visitors after gallery activity

  • V&A: - Images created by visitors who were asked to look at the work of Lady Hawarden, a nineteenth century photographer. They were told to look for her use of strong light, reflections and the relationship between sitters and then to try to create their own interpretation of her work within the museum using digital cameras and a simple computer programme that allowed image manipulation. Visitors could create and send digital postcards from their work and they could also upload to the website.

Provision of tools

Drag and drop activity

  • Mr Picasso Head - A very creative example of a drag and drop art activity suited to adults and children. Every one can do it but only some people can do it brilliantly.
  • Channel 4: Make a Face - A very clever and subtle site for creating pictures of celebrities or your mates. Huge range of colour shades and the ability to change the proportions of each element make this a very good site for museums where portraits are studied.


  • Flickr - A site that allows you to store your digital photographs, make them public if you choose and unite them with other similar content according to the categories you allocate. So, for example, all images labelled circles can be grouped together .
  • Snapfish is a photography printing site. You can also store your images there. Although not about two-way websites it also has a number of gifts that can be printed with photographs that suggest potential museum digital photography activities.
  • Webshots has over 149 million images to browse stored there by visitors to the site.
  • offers an opportunity for artists, designers and photographers to showcase their work.

Mass Surveys

  • Natural History Museum: Walking with Woodlice - Interesting use of a mass survey. Woodlice records were submitted from round Britain, the Natural History Museum created maps from the data and users were invited to interpret the data.
  • BBC; Gardener's World, Sunflower Survey - Mass survey of five varieties of sunflower grown by schools and ordinary gardeners.
  • RSPB: Big Bug Count - A curious survey of the availability of food for birds using 'splatometers' to count the number of bug corpses on car number plates.


  • Dana Centre: Webcast - The Dana Centre is a collaboration between the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science), the European Dana Alliance for the Brain and the Science Museum. Webcasts are a regular feature although the one I watched did not seem to be able to incorporate many email comments.

Creative Writing

  • BBC: Get Writing - The BBC's creative writing site. Competition winners are published here and several programmes have fed into it.
  • At Girland, a site for young girls, the community section includes an invitation to contribute chapters to interactive novels.

Curriculum Materials

  • The STEM Project (Students' and Teachers' Educational Materials) was an Internet competition held by the Science Museum and sponsored by TOSHIBA from 1997 to 2003. The purpose of the STEM Project was to create a database of web resources created by students and teachers for students and teachers, offering them activity sheets, gallery guides, visit descriptions, online tutorials and more to complement their museum experience.

Virtual Museums and Galleries

  • The National Maritime Museum has an online resource about slavery called ‘Freedom’ where visitors can select their own objects and add their own interpretation.

Multiple and Miscellaneous Approaches

  • Bookcrossing: n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise. Wonderful award winning site that encourages readers to record favourite books online then label them and leave them out in the real world for others to find.
  • The Whitney Museum of America Art encouraged students to tell their own visual stories and showed how to plan a story board and create a story in PowerPoint.
  • ‘With Kids Design Network, you'll investigate a challenge, dream up a design, and draw your plans on the computer. Then, using the Internet, you can show your design to a real engineer! They'll help with your design, so you can go and build it! And best of all, it's free!’
  • eBay - This auction site only exists because users either put items on it to sell them or go to the site to place bids.
  • Friends Reunited - Another site that only exists because people want to put stuff on it.
  • Chicago Historical Society: Teen Chicago - Another ambitious site where the Society's Teen Council of 15 can put their oral history interviews as well as exhibit their own artwork and feature their music. Nicely designed.
  • MOMA: Red Studio - Another ambitious site for a small group of young people that is expanding and finding ways of incorporating the work and ideas of more people.
  • Ingenious, The Science Museum’s site has a Create section which offers users their own personalised My links, My saved images, My e-cards and My webgalleries area..
  • is a social bookmarks manager. It allows you to easily add web pages you like to your personal collection of links, to categorize those sites with keywords, and to share your collection not only among your own browsers and machines, but also with others.

Gail Durbin, Head of V&A Online 20 May 2005

Cite as:

Gail Durbin, Websites that encourage input from users, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2005: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 31, 2005 at