Skip to main content

Museums and the Web

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

Museums and the Web 2012 (MW2012): Best of the Web: Categories

Recognizing achievement in heritage Web site design, a committee of museum professionals selects the Best of the Web each year.

Each person registered at (this site) may nominate one site for a Best of the Web award. For full contest details see the MW2012 Best of the Web Nomination, Review and People's Choice Voting Process.

Using an agreed review process and criteria, The Best of the Web panel will consider Web sites nominated in the following categories:

Be sure to review the category definitions carefully before nominating, as sites do much better when they are considered in the right context.


The Panel will all use the same set of Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria when reviewing nominated sites.


Audio / Visual / Podcast

These sites or applications make use of narrative, linear, audio or video to move museum content out of the institution, into the realm of the user. Audio/Visual content may be delivered as a podcast, or on YouTube, Vimeo or some other streaming video-based site.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Strong, original and appropriate content
  • Evocative use of audio, video or the podcast format
  • Effective use of sound, video, still or moving images
  • Links between online and on-site activities where appropriate


These sites or apps teach a specific audience about a particular subject. They present material in an effective and relevant manner, and provide depth of content. Educational sites may be sites designed by and for children. (This category does not include search engines and online databases: see Research/Collections Online for these).

Quality characteristics include:

  • Content for schools and teachers, and support for collaborative spaces for teachers to work together
  • Content for students of any age, and provision of collaborative work spaces for students
  • Interaction between museum staff and students, teachers, or educational groups of any level
  • Integration of experiences of 'real' visits to museum and the educational Web site
  • Provision of non-curriculum-based learning experiences and support of lifelong learning activities
  • Easily identifiable target audience and clear pedagogical strategy


These sites or apps excel in presenting and interpreting museum collections and themes, providing a rich and meaningful digital experience. They may be a section of a larger museum Web site or be a collaborative project among institutions and/or individuals and communities associated with museums.

Entirely virtual museums are eligible to participate in this category as are exhibitions of Web art and other "born digital" collections. Quality characteristics include:

  • Effective use of multiple media formats
  • Innovative ways of complementing physical exhibitions or providing surrogates for physical experiences in online only exhibitions
  • New ways of representing museum processes and structures
  • Imaginative audience participation and engagement of different categories of 'visitors'

Innovative / Experimental

These sites or apps make use of new Web concepts and emerging technology to provide new and creative content or services in projects. They are assessed less on the technical expertise they demonstrate than on their innovative objectives, originality and potential for development. Quality characteristics include:

  • Creative, new, innovative uses of the Web
  • Application of new Web concepts to museum goals
  • Introduction of new/emerging technology to museum Web sites
  • Experimental and creative uses of emerging technology
  • Uses of technology that offer new possibilities for further development


Some projects stand the test of time, well. This category rewards a museum (or museum organization) that has shown a long-term commitment to an excellent online presence, of any kind. It's not a popularity contest, but a chance to celebrate sites that year-over-year continue to deliver quality, be useful, and serve their communities. Their longevity embodies the power and effectiveness of sustained online engagement.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Sustained use by and engagement with site visitors
  • Reliable consistent quality
  • Continued growth in available resources over time
  • Ongoing organizational commitment to long-term site development and use
  • Alignment with the vision and long-term strategy of the sponsoring institution


Sites or apps designed and developed to function best on a mobile device, such as a smart phone or tablet, e.g. iPhone, Android, iPad... They may be either stand-alone Apps or Web-based sites, and could integrate other technologies that enhance the mobile experience, such as GPS, Augmented Reality, QR codes.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Efficient and effective use of mobile formats and interaction possibilities
  • Accessibility of content on multiple platforms
  • Current / updated content
  • Creative ways of presenting content
  • Integration with social media where appropriate
  • Ease of use for experienced and novice users

Museum Professional

Sites developed to serve museum professionals and meet their specific requirements, such as administration, exhibitions, education, public relations, registration, collections management, or development. These site may be reference resources that are used in professional work and study, such as reports of conferences, pre-publications, reviews or technical literature. They may also be multi-site indexes and finding aids that collocate resources critical to the professional community. (This category does not include search engines and online databases intended for research; see Research / Collections Online for these).

Quality characteristics include:

  • Contribution to the museum profession as a whole
  • Support for the distributed activity of a consortium or group of museum partners in ongoing collaborations
  • Fostering innovative projects that help in the development of technology and media in museums
  • Valuable online forums and discussions that engage museum professionals
  • Software, guidelines, templates and packages tailored for museum professional needs

Research / Collections Online

Sites that support or present research about or using museum collections, that provide excellent resources for researchers in any discipline. They may be online databases, search engines or APIs that provide detailed museum information for individuals and/or groups.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Ease of use for both experienced and novice researchers
  • Accuracy and depth of content
  • Consistency of material
  • Currency of links and updates
  • Extensive links and references to other related resources and sites
  • Creative use of APIs
  • Mashups/integration of multiple data sources

Social Media

Successful museums use social media to engage with their communities as part of their digital presence, both embedded in and reaching beyond each museum's own Web site. The best uses of social media reflect a co-ordinated strategy of continuous user involvement and response, and maintain the museum's diversified voice and identity across multiple platforms, including third-party sites and interactions, dedicated sections of a museum's own online spaces, or social media embedded throughout a site. Activities may include online community comments and discussions, user contributed content, tagging, personalization, or other initiatives that bridge online and on-site.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Exploring user contribution, user created content, dialogue, and real interactivity in formats such as user discussions, crowdsourced, contributed and collaborative content, personal galleries and collections, or online communities
  • Robust ongoing participation and dialogue and/or active creation of user-contributed content
  • Engaging use of web and other digital platforms for collective activities
  • Evidence of a long-term coordinated strategy that responds and evolves based on user needs and input

Best Small Museum Site

The panel may make a separate award in any category for small museums/budgets, to explicitly recognise work from smaller institutions. These are sites that have been:

  • Created in-house or with volunteer effort
  • Mounted by small institutions (with 5 for fewer professional staff)
  • Created with very limited budgets (sometimes no budget)

If you feel a site merits consideration as being from a small museum, please explain why in your nomination. Small sites should be nominated in the appropriate category.

People's Choice

  • During a pre-defined period, each user registered at may cast one vote for a site to be recognised as the People's Choice. The site with the most votes will be awarded the People's Choice. See the Nomination Process for further details.

Best Overall Museum Web Site

Together, the Panel picks their "Best of the Web". This award recognizes the outstanding nature of a site and its overall contribution to the institution, museum profession, and museum and archives informatics community. Quality of content, ease of use, accessibility and stability are all considered.

You cannot nominate a site for Best Overall Web site. This choice is made by the Panel from all the sites nominated.

Review Criteria

All sites are assessed using the agreed review criteria, in addition to their category-specific characteristics.