Class Plan

  • History of the Sogdian Project at the Smithsonian – Nancy Micklewright.
  • Overview of recent trends in the development of digital exhibitions and museum interactives.
  • Omeka Workshop


Ross Parry, Recoding the Museum, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 58-101. (NYU | BGC)

Klaus Müller, “Museums and Virtuality,” in Museums in a Digital Age, ed. Ross Parry (New York: Routledge, 2010), p. 295-305. (NYU | BGC)

Areti Galani and Matthew Chalmers, “Empowering the Remote Visitor,” in Museums in a Digital Age, ed. Ross Parry (New York : Routledge, 2010), p. 157-177. (NYU | BGC)

Josh Goldblum, et al., “Considerations and Strategies for Creating Interactive Narratives,” in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2007: Proceedings (Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 31, 2007)

Sogdian Digital Exhibition Thesis Developed at February 2015 Working Session

The Sogdians were the middlemen of the transcontinental trade known as the Silk Road, amassing great wealth which financed a flowering of civilization in their homeland, the area around Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan. But they were also purveyors of culture to their imperial neighbours, transporting craftsmen, artists, Buddhist monks and others, and introducing new artistic and religious ideas and contributing to military and diplomatic affairs in China and the west. This exhibition will use material atrifacts, text, and audiovisual media to create a fuller, multi-faceted portrait of the Sogdians, and tell the story of how their adaptability and mobility allowed them to influence the art and culture of people across Asia without the traditional trappings of empire wielded by the adjacent Iranian, Chinese, and Byzantine empires.

Sites to Visit

Visualizing 19th-Century New York

The Interface Experience: Forty Years of Personal Computing


  1. Select a digital exhibition that you have had a strong reaction to (love, hate, confusion, surprise…) and post a link to it in the comments describing your choice. Be prepared to discuss your selection in class. Think about how you use it, what is or is not there, who else would or would not use it, and what kind of external constraints might have affected the final product (politics, money, ability).
  2. Be thinking about your definition of ‘digital exhibitions.’

Digital Exhibition Responses

Aleena– Getty’s visualisation of the “Augsburg Display Cabinet” allows the user to explore the cabinet in detail in a way it won’t be possible to do in real life. The interior view is especially interesting as is the show structure feature. With such such access to an object, the user/viewer experience completely changes. I like that with such an interactive platform, information and labels are still provided and it doesn’t just become a sort of game.

Ariel – “Form and Landscape: Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Basin, 1940-1990”  The Southern California Edison company has an archive of 70,000 images. While the full collection is available at The Huntington Library, eighteen categories have been created to highlight the archive online. The majority of the individual exhibitions include essays alongside the photographs. The design of some digital exhibitions leaves me with the feeling that I have missed information because information is tucked away on various pages; “Form and Landscape” is simply done and easy to navigate. That said, it was lacking in interactivity that would have added depth to the exhibition.

Christina – “Marks of Genius: Masterpieces from the Collections from the Bodleian Libraries”
This is the digital exhibition of a physical exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries, which used its own collection to explore the concept of genius, how genius is manifested in books and manuscripts, and how “works of genius” are acquired, collected, and read. This digital exhibition allows visitors to view the exhibited objects in a variety of ways. Options include themes, subjects, timeline, map, and the floor plan of the physical exhibition. While not all the objects are in the timeline, having some of the objects visible in a timeline encourages the visitor to consider all of the objects in the timeline. Each object has a brief description as well.

Christine – “Whitney Museum of American Art” The site is the museum that presents American art from the past when it first founded in 1931 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney until very recent years. The website introduces the types of collections including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film, printmaking, video, installation, and new media. The collections serve as resources for its visitors to understand art history and the creative process of artists in the United States from the 1900s to today. Now the collections includes over 21,000 works created by more than 3,000 artists in the U.S. The site categorizes its collections mostly by time era.

Joanna – “North American Mammals – Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History” This online database provides the visitor with searchable data on all mammals found in North America. The strength of this site is that the visitor can search using keywords, points on a map, the evolutionary family tree of mammalia, or by conservation status. I found the map feature to be of particular interest, because it allows the user to view map overlays of the habitats of many different mammals.  This site could be improved with more visual offerings on each species, such as photo or video of animals in the wild.

Julie – “Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece” This site is the result of a full documentation and restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece, a project supported by the Getty Foundation. The visitor can click through the different panels of the altarpiece to discover not only the condition the painting was in pre- and post-conservation treatment, but also see infrared and X-ray photography to understand how it was made and assembled. I love that a single object serves as the anchor for the whole site. It is a design strategy that is both elegant and easy to navigate.

Leslie -“Pottermore” So Pottermore used to be an interactive game. Users would follow the stories from the Harry Potter books by completing tasks (i.e. making a Polyjuice Potion). Along the way, additional information, such as backstories on characters, became available. However, the site was relaunched this past fall. The only remaining game-like qualities are the sorting and wand selection. There is a promise of more “features” to come. The site now mainly features J.K. Rolwing’s extra writings that expand on the wizarding world, Buzzfeed-like articles, and information on new projects like Fantasic Beasts and Where to Find Them. There are still histories and profiles, but the game is gone. It is well linked, so jumping from articles to profiles is easy, and the new style of the website is quite beautiful.

Liz – “Pearls of Wisdom: The Arts of Islam at the University of Michigan”  I understand the basic flow of this digital exhibit (introductory text and themes, leading to a choice of highlight objects, leading to each object’s own explanatory text), which mimics a physical museum experience. But the incidental and non-obvious object connections that would take the visitor on their own path aren’t there. For example: the “related object” field for the cupbearer blazon textile only contains a vessel also depicting a cup, with no outlets for questions about textiles, Mamluk Egypt, colorants, the use of wine, the object’s survival/provenance, etc.

Maria – “France-Japon, une rencontre, 1850-1914” French National Library puts online several thousands of documents from its collection of Japan-related documents and objects. It is an excellent tool for the researches and the lovers of Japanese art and history. It is divided into 4 sections, the first presenting two virtual exhibitions, of Japanese prints and of First photographs, the second including several albums of Japanese arts and crafts, the third having links to Japan-related documents on BNF Gallica site, and the forth linking to external resources. I loved the inclusiveness of the site, and the amount of links to various other resources.

Matthew – “Byzantine Collection” by Dumbarton Oaks,

Dumbarton Oaks is an eclectic museum/research library in DC.  Among various exhibits (ranging from Medieval to Pre-Columbian), of note is their Byzantine Collection.  Their online exhibit, while containing far more than their physical exhibit, is poorly laid out.  While aesthetically pleasing, the links between the main page and other significant portions of the database, such as the actual listing of objects in the collection or their vast online catalogue of Byzantine seals, are buried in paragraphs of text.  It seems almost that this is the result of two websites having been combined into one.  That being said, once you have gotten to the databases themselves, the objects are well organized with well written descriptions.

Sarah – “The Gallery of Lost Art”

The Gallery of Lost Art is an immersive, online exhibition that tells the fascinating stories of artworks that have disappeared…. destroyed, stolen, discarded, rejected, erased, and/or ephemeral. Curated by the Tate and designed by digital studio ISO. Set in a virtual warehouse setting, the visitor discovers photographs, letters, letters, newspaper cuttings, archival images, and essays at their own pace and leisure.  The plethora of information available would be impossible to fit into a physical gallery. Even though it is a digital exhibition, it had a “closing date” and was itself lost after a year. I did not experience the live exhibit (open July 2012-13), but it’s residual impressions are conceptually unique, with a good balance of play and content. Additionally, the ability to download some of the exhibition content is something new – giving the visitor a different sense on ownership and access.

Soley – “The Attention Experience” by Scratch at Viacom

The Attention Experience is a both a physical, hands-on exhibit hosted at Viacom HQ in New York, but also a dynamic, digital exhibit of information and research. The exhibit presents current research on the economy of consumer attention and how commercial industries can apply said research to their business strategies. The content and interface of this digital exhibition stood out for me. The content, although targeted for commercial entities, also directly replies to the museum context. As leisure activities proliferate, so too does the desire of museum’s to retain and understand visitor’s attention. Additionally, this digital exhibition is interactive without being complicated—the only action available for the user is an up-down scroll. This digital exhibition is streamlined and effective, linear yet dynamic, and carries a clear and digestible story all the way through.


“Historic Threads: Three Centuries of Clothing” by Colonial Williamsburg’s Museum Collection invites visitors to learn about Euro American fashion from the 17th-19th centuries. The visitor can choose to either “Learn” and be led to explanatory texts or “Explore” and be led to images paired with object descriptions. Although the site offers a wealth of information, its value as a resource and as its level of interactivity would have been greatly enhanced if the visitor could see and manipulate images of the garments in the round and be able to zoom in close enough to see the garments’ stitch work.


How to Post Your Digital Exhibition Information

  • Log in to the site
  • Go to this page on the site
  • Click Edit Page
  • Find your first name in the edit box and add your text