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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Tang Museum, Skidmore College

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The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College






The Tang Museum's website was designed from the ground up to support the educational teaching mission of the museum, which operates as an integral aspect of Skidmore College's undergraduate liberal arts education.  In practice, this has led to extensive creation of visual and audio-visual materials that faculty can draw on to support museum-based curricula, and that students can consult as they pursue specific academic assignments.

In particular, the Tang's site offers unusually deep visual documentation and background web features created for selected "teaching exhibitions" such as "Lives of the Hudson," "Molecules That Matter," and "Environment and Object - Recent African Art." Co-curated by faculty working hand-in-hand with museum staff, these exhibitions are widely utilized throughout the curriculum; to support that exhibition use, the Tang works with faculty and students to publish background interactives that offer extensive historical information complementing what viewers see in the gallery.  Online, (expandable) slideshows and 360 degree panoramic photographs (also viewable in two sizes) offer site visitors a chance to interrogate the exhibitions themselves, seeing what the show (and not merely the individual objects in it) look like in situ.  Videos with curators and artists round out the view of such projects.  In this way, the exhibition itself can be maintained as an object of study long after it closes. 

The Faculty & Teaching section of the site offers a look at how Skidmore faculty use the museum, providing short audio interviews with several faculty-users, sample assignments, and slideshows. It outlines a range of approaches to museum-based pedagogies, encompassing collection-based assignments, exhibition-based assignments, and use of the museum space itself as a pedagogical stage.  Additional sections examine ways the Tang fosters faculty use of the museum and other academic activities the museum hosts. 

The Resources section of the site offers easy access to the most recent teaching resources, particularly new videos and exhibition-focused interactives created by the Tang, as well as direct links to each genre of resource (e.g. videos, installation panoramas, college assignments, audio-enhanced slide shows, etc.).  

Designed by Flat of New York City and maintained by a staff of one, the Tang's Digital Resources Content Producer, the site offers a model of how small, college-based museums can focus production on creation of resources that offer content deep enough to support teaching and learning at the college level.  At the Tang, this means showing what exhibitions really look like, asking artists and curators speak about the nature of their work in well-edited videos; working closely with college faculty to document their work with the museum; and creating rich online interactive that offer information that will not fit into exhibitions but remains important to faculty curators.  

Deeply visual in its approach, the Tang site privileges long-term value over short-term effects and offers multiple paths to the resources it features.