Museums and the Web

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The Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource

Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
Tak! Design

Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource
The Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource was created for an academic audience interested in the Pre-Raphaelites as part of their study or research. Audience research with students, lecturers, researchers and picture librarians showed that what they all wanted more than anything was access to good quality images. We had always intended to allow people to zoom in on images, but we went one step further by using Microsoft's Silverlight software to give people a quality experience with which to view the images close up.
Microsoft Silverlight
In order to zoom in on images users have to install Microsoft Silverlight - this is quick and easy to install and we felt it was worth it because the experience you have is so much better than other zoom technology. You can zoom in and pan across an image with ease. Seeing the stitches on the Holy Grail tapestries is the kind of detail that people are experiencing and enjoying for the first time using this site.
Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery were funded by JISC to create this resource and one of their requirements was that we should show the academic community how they could use the Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource to create their own teaching resources. We decided to create a way for people to create and share their own learning resources (called Personal Collections) using this site. We demonstrated how this could be done by creating some simple Learning Resources ourselves. We realised from the research that we conducted that many people in the academic community would not be comfortable with sharing work online, so the default option is that they are not available for others to see. Users can choose to share the personal collections with other people - so for example lecturers with students, or students working collaboratively together. They can also choose to make them public - but as the research indicated, few people have chosen to do this although the Persoanl Collections section of the website is very well used.
Personal Collections
The Personal Collections can be used in a number of ways such as simply collecting together favourite images, working collaboratively with others, grouping together images and making notes for research, teaching, creating online exhibitions and and being creative in other ways. The use of Microsoft's Silverlight software also gives people a more interactive experience with the collections they create - allowing them to zoom in on their opened collections, reorder them and 'play' them.
 Research and Innovation
The site was shaped by Audience Research prior to web development and usability testing at the early stages of the development. We kept a user focus throughout the development, and the innovative use of Silverlight in giving users enhanced access to images and creating learning resources/personal collections has proved effective - and popular.

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