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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The Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art
Studio Blue Inc.,, and The Indianapolis Museum of Art

In 2005 IMA embarked on a project aimed at re-deploying the institution’s website. After two years of user research, information and graphics design, the IMA website launched in September of this year as The new website enables the IMA to promote engaging content that will both educate and inform online visitors and invite them to see and participate in the IMA’s collections at their convenience. The primary communication goals of the website redesign are two-fold. First, user research showed that the majority current visitors to the IMA’s website were interested in information about how they could visit the IMA’s campus. Factual information such as the hours and admissions information as well as directions and parking availability were typical of the sorts of information that needed to be access readily. In addition to basic information about visiting the museum, the user research showed that users were expecting a more rich and engaging experience both visually and factually on the museum’s website. They felt that an art museum should be more experimental in its approach to the web and expressed an interest in behind-the-scenes content about how the museum operates. Focus groups revealed that visitors to the existing website were not aware of the extent of the museum’s collection or offerings. The second major focus of the site was to create ways in which online visitors can connect with the energy and vibrancy of the museum’s many offerings. This includes several ways of building new audiences through the deep integration of engaging video content and social tagging elements for access to the museum’s collection. The site’s new design is novel in the way it presents information about the museum. The site’s content is categorized into four modules: a "how to visit" module, a calendar of events, a gallery of images from the museum and its collection, and an "explore" module, which focuses on the IMA’s collection, its exhibitions, and its other educational resources. Visitors to the site have access to the entire IMA collections database ( and ), which is illustrated with images of the collection, and are able to express and share their views about art through tagging artworks. ( Tagging is the practice of associating key words or "tags" with an image. These tags are used to help others find art more easily and will offer the museum new insight into how the public views the collection. In addition, the new IMA web site features an "interact" section that will allow web visitors to view a large collection of IMA-produced videos ( , to respond to Museum staff through the Museum’s blog ( and to tag across all of our art collection areas. This section also allows IMA staff to experiment with new approaches to digital content. The blog features posts from IMA employees that offer a glimpse of life at the IMA. Through blog updates on IMA projects, IMA staff members hope to connect with online visitors. Though still in its early stages, the website has proven to be very popular with the public. Monitoring and log analysis of the site has shown a 30% increase in the unique visitors to the site and an 80% increase in the number of discrete page views during the first two months. The IMA’s tagging database currently consists of over 20,000 tags submitted by the public and staff at the museum. Video content created by IMA currently consists of 57 different short-format videos which have garnered over 68,000 individual viewings and 130 subscribers.

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