Museums and the Web

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

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Indianapolis Museum of Art
Indianapolis Museum of Art


In January of 2009 the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) launched the Web site In the words of its producers, ArtBabble “was created so that others will join in spreading the word of art through video.”  Showcasing the IMA’s extensive and varied self-produced video library, the Web site is the museum's - and also the museum-field's - answer to YouTube and other video share sites.  As outlined on the site, the IMA plans that in the future, ArtBabble will be shared with other organizations thus serving as an expansive online channel for multiple museum’s video content

Understanding the import of the visual quality of video art, ArtBabble allows viewers to choose from multiple resolutions including two HD (480p and 720p). By incorporating timed ‘notes’, the IMA was able to associate additional content with a video as it plays. As a result of the subtle yet powerful prompts that vary from links to artist's biographical information on Wikipedia to amateur photos on Flickr, viewers can explore the contextual facts and anecdotes related to the subjects of the video and thus extend their interaction beyond the passive act of watching a video. Broadening the interactive experience even further, a comment section allows for visitors to share observations and suggest links of their own. Using video art as the hub, this feature will create a communal dialogue that promises to generate lively conversation from visitors of varied backgrounds and levels of art expertise.

Produced, programmed, and designed by an entirely internal team at the IMA, ArtBabble is a remarkable and innovative Web site. From high-definition video to tagging, comment boards to media-sharing, ArtBabble incorporates the best of digital media and Web2.0 tools while furthering the museum’s mission. Its clever design creates a platform for community engagement beyond traditional video-sharing sites. ArtBabble is a model for how technology can facilitate deeper engagement and discourse. The site is fun, educational, user-friendly, and above-all, mission driven. It will be exciting to witness its growth over the coming months and years and to see how the web community uses this interactive platform to “babble on” about art.

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