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Archives & Museum Informatics

Investigating Art Museum Web Sites: A Three-part Approach

Amy M. Karabin, University of Texas at Austin, USA


Ten art museum web sites are investigated using a three-part investigative matrix that identifies and applies specific criteria to each web site. The three main components of the investigative matrix are: technological, design and source considerations of the Web; characteristics of the Web and web use thought to enhance learning; and, the National Visual Arts Standards. Following an introductory discussion of each matrix component, the ten art museum web sites are presented in terms of their adherence to the criteria in the investigative matrix. The ten art museum web sites examined in this study fall into one of five categories: flagship/large art museums, regional/local art museums, university art museums, special interest/ethnic art museums, and electronic art museums. The main goal of this study is to provide to art and museum educators an example of a method that can be used to investigate additional art museum web sites and web sites with art education related content. Using this method, art and museum educators, as well as educators from other disciplines, can conduct future exploration into the technological and educational aspects, as well as adherence to the National Visual Arts Standards, of other web sites they may want to use to meet their pedagogical needs.


Traditionally, many consider art museums as a place for quite contemplation and gaining insights about the visual creations of artists over time and place. "The basis of a museumís existence and activity is its collections which must be accessible, Öexhibited and interpreted" (Proença, et. al., 1998, on-line). The burgeoning growth of art museum sites on the World Wide Web, however, brings an added dimension and challenge to this traditional view of the art museum. This study seeks to understand some aspects of the World Wide Web and art museum web sites that exist upon and within in. Consequently, this study can help art educators in understanding how to capitalize on art museum web sitesí content, structure and location on the Web. Additionally, it can provide art and museum educators with information useful either for creating or accessing and using web-based materials to meet their pedagogical needs.

Goals of the Study

This study has three main goals. First, it identifies and discusses eight criteria concerned with technological, design and source considerations of the Web. These criteria provide art educators who plan to use art museum web sites with a sound foundation for understanding how the Web operates, and also in defining unique characteristics of web design, sources and functions. Additionally, art educators wishing to create web materials can gain some insight into the philosophies and planning stages of web design.

Second, this study identifies characteristics of the Web thought to enhance learning. Six criteria relative to web-based instruction and learning are named, discussed and applied to the ten art museum web sites under investigation. These criteria aid in analyzing which art museum web sites might pose potential for use by art educators as efficient and effective instructional and learning resources.

Third, this study links the conceptual ideas of the National Visual Arts Standards to the ten web sites in order to foster understanding about the impact web technology might exert in the context of art education. Such connections erected between art museum web sites and the Standards can foster an increased understanding of the relevance that web-based materials may share with art education scholarship and pedagogy. These conceptual links can also encourage art museum web site developers to gauge the applicability of their siteís content to the Standards, thereby enhancing communication between art and museum educators, and between web site developers and their audience.

These three goals provide the springboard by which ten art museum web sites are examined using a three-part investigative matrix. It also serves as a catalyst for the future examination of web-based materials. While art museum web sites are under investigation here, the three-part investigative matrix is designed to apply to any web site containing art education content.

The ultimate goal of this study is to provide to art and museum educators a method that they, in turn, can use to investigate the technological and educational aspects, as well as adherence to the Standards, of other web sites they may want to use to meet their pedagogical needs. With continued investigation into and examination of web-based art education materials, the scope of quality resources available to art educators may increase. Additionally, new technologies in the art education context might be more commonly used in a variety of ways, and future art museum- and art education-focused web sites can be created that may more effectively adhere to sound criteria in design and art education content.

The main criteria categories of the three-part investigative matrix introduced below supply the foundation used to guide the examination of ten art museum web sites. Each part of the matrix represents a different approach to understanding art museum web sites. The application of this three-part investigative methodology may foster an understanding of how to incorporate new technologies into traditional or existing approaches to art and museum education.

Part One of the Matrix: Technological, Design and Source Considerations

Eight criteria concerned with technological, design and source considerations create the first part of the three-part investigative matrix for art museum web sites. The main goal in identifying these elements is to help art educators see how they might, in an organized way, examine emerging technologies used in the art education and museum education contexts.

Technological, design and source considerations address an art museumís need to initiate web site development and the main goals and objectives subsequently reflected in the site itself. In order to effectively analyze art museum web sites, a functioning awareness of interface design and its corresponding elements is important in determining the "look and feel" of the site. Additionally, technological, design and source considerations can affect how "successful" the site is, with respect to its effectiveness in appealing to a targeted audience. Thus, through the implementation of this part of the matrix, different approaches to art museum web sites may be better understood, and therefore better used, in a variety of settings by a variety of people.

Furthermore, the investigation and documentation of technological, design and source considerations may provide art educators with a sound foundation for understanding how the Web operates, and also may assist in defining unique characteristics of web design, sources and functions. Consequently, art educators may derive some insight into the philosophies and planning stages of web design.

The eight technological, design and source considerations identified in this study are:

  1. Scope of content;
  2. Content validity/verifiability of details;
  3. Currency of information;
  4. Credibility of source;
  5. Point of view/bias/objectivity;
  6. Layout/design/navigation;
  7. Media integration; and,
  8. Interactivity/usability.

Part Two of the Matrix: Characteristics of the Web and Web Use Thought to Enhance Learning

Following the exponential growth of the Web in recent years, many educators and scholars endorse its potential as an instructional and learning tool (Cason, 1998; Dunn, 1996; Dunn, 1996; Gigliotti, 1998; Gregory, 1995; Gregory, 1996; Haynes, et. al., 1998; Heise & Grandgenett, 1996; Marchionini, 1988; McDaniel, et. al., 1993; Richards, et. al., 1990; and, Slawson, 1993). Calculated exploration is necessary, however, in order to gauge the presence of particular components of an art museum web site in order to determine whether it can be effectively used by art educators to enhance instruction and learning. Part two of the three-part investigative matrix, characteristics of the Web and web use thought to enhance learning, seeks to provide the foundation by which such calculated exploration can occur.

This portion of the investigative matrix analyzes the aspects of web sites that can be considered for use as instructional and learning resources, the differences between Web and non- Web media, and the scope of instruction and learning possible on the Web. Today, art and museum educators face the challenge of trying to determine the usefulness of an abundance of web-based information. By adopting as a model the organized approach for investigating art museum web sites seen in this matrix, art educators can use it as a springboard to launch future investigation into the pedagogical characteristics of additional web sites. This portion of the investigative matrix makes such examination possible and identifies six characteristics of the Web and web use thought to enhance learning:

  1. The unbounded/open nature of information on the Web;
  2. Connectivity with related and divergent information;
  3. User-centered content and design;
  4. Self-guided/direct user manipulation of the Web;
  5. Increased user motivation; and,
  6. Encouraging new ways of learning how to learn.

It is important to note that characteristics five and six, increased user motivation and the encouragement of new ways of learning how to learn, are specifically related to web use (as opposed to characteristics of the Web itself) and are reliant upon user focus-groups and increased interaction with individuals in a variety of situations. For these reasons, they are not specifically addressed in this paper.

Part Three of the Matrix: The National Visual Arts Standards

The third and final part of the investigative matrix for art museum web sites incorporates art education content organized according to the achievement standards found in the Standards. The Standards are used in this study for a number of reasons.

First, they represent a consensus of opinion by art educators regarding general goals for art education. Second, they resulted from a collaborative effort among art educators from all levels of teaching and administration, rather than a single, institutionally endorsed curriculum framework. Third, the Standards are not an actual art education curriculum but rather a structure art educators can voluntarily use to alter or improve existing art education curricula. Finally, specific adaptations of the Standards exist in a number of state, school district and local art education programs, thus reflecting a level of acceptance of the Standards among art educators.

Investigating art museum web sites by using an existing art education curriculum framework fosters an effective way to show how web-based materials can be assessed in terms of their relevance to art education goals and methodology as practiced in the classroom. It may also encourage art museum web site developers to gauge the applicability of their siteís content to the Standards, thereby fostering increased communication between art and museum educators, and between web site developers and their audience.

The Standardsí six overarching content standards used in this final section of the three-part investigative matrix include:

  1. "Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes;
  2. "Using knowledge of structures and functions;
  3. "Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas;
  4. "Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures;
  5. "Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others; and,
  6. "Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines" (NAEA, 1994, pp. 19-20).

Investigative Results of Art Museum Web Sites

The three-part investigative matrix provides the structure used to document the information discovered about each of the ten art museum web sites investigated in this study. Each of the three parts of the matrix includes specific questions relative to the particular criteria element, for example scope of content, under consideration. These questions are found in Tables 1 ñ 3 at the conclusion of this paper. This approach of citing information is used for technological, design and source considerations, and with the first four components of the Web and web use thought to enhance learning.

With regard to the Standards, however, the achievement standards illustrating the content standards revert into questions, which subsequently serve as the questions used to guide exploration of each of the art museum web sites.

Following are summaries of the investigative results of each of the ten art museum web sites examined in this study.

Flagship/Large Art Museums

Flagship or large art museums are institutions that have nationally or internationally renowned collections that are encyclopedic in scope, rather than focused upon a particular artistic era or genre. Often found in large cities, this type of art museum normally occupies a large building and may be considered a tourist attraction within the city in which it resides. Flagship or large museums frequently benefit from large endowments. Ample monies often fund a variety of programs and outreach efforts, as well as acquisitions and restoration projects.

ArtsConnectEd (

Overall, ArtsConnectEd exhibits many components of a comprehensive web site. ArtsConnectEd provides users with a wealth of information, links to outside sources, on-line activities, and opportunities for comments and discussion. Logical organization maintains the enormous store of art education and related content in an easy-to-access, user-friendly format with clear and concise directives to users.

Purposeful and powerful technologies that can be turned on or off, impart added dimension to usersí experiences with the Site, as well as communicates pertinent information to a variety of users. Students, educators and the public can meander through ArtsConnectEdís interface design with logical precision to uncover relevant information suitable to their needs.

One of the most valuable and unique aspects of ArtsConnectEd is its consistent reference to the Minnesota Graduation Standards, a statewide curriculum framework for the state of Minnesota. Mirroring in purpose the Standards, the Minnesota Graduation Standards propose basic skills in all disciplines necessary for students to move from one grade level to the next, and desired for students to know before graduating from high school. Using ArtsConnectEd, students, teachers, administrators and the public can sort through the variety of on-line and museum-based educational programs that cover specific subject matter and themes that frequently have an interdisciplinary focus.

ArtsConnectEd exhibits a positive correlation to the majority of the criteria in the investigative matrix and is particularly strong in adhering to the Standards. This art museum web siteís content appears to be a valuable instructional and learning resource that is technologically sound, comprehensive and very well maintained.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (

The Guggenheim maintains on its web site a clear and concise presentation of general museum information. It is well organized and features consistent navigational tools. The archive of exhibitions on the Site presents valuable information clearly and plainly, and provides users with an overview or introduction to a particular exhibition. However, the exhibition information appears to be limited in interdisciplinary or interpretative content.

One of the strongest characteristics of the Guggenheim web site resides in the consistent use of author crediting. Throughout the Exhibitions section of the Guggenheim web site, for example, curators, art historians, consultants and other museum staff are regularly cited and credited for their contributions.

Unfortunately, a somewhat "promotional" feel predominates in the Site, rather than an educational or scholarly approach. Users might find this Site more valuable for acquiring directions and the Guggenheimís hours of operation as opposed to gaining exposure to interpretative content related to the Museumís many exhibitions. The Site could benefit from expanded interpretative and interdisciplinary content. The inclusion of such information might better reflect the Standards. Currently, there appears to be only vague reference to interpretative and interdisciplinary information, and strategies included for accessing and utilizing it, that can be construed to fall within the guidelines of the Standards.

While the Guggenheim web site includes most aspects of the investigative matrix, its content is not comprehensive enough to fulfill adherence to all of the criteria.

Regional/Local Art Museums

Regional or local art museumsí missions and collections specifically address the area in which they reside. Collections may consist of historical, geographic, contemporary or culturally centered art but should reflect local economy, history or culture. Additionally, an art museum considered regional or local should manifest a dedicated interest in the community in which it resides, providing programming and exhibitions of interest to the local population.

Silicon Valley Institute of Art and Technology

ART-TECH is an excellent institutional and web-based concept that is incompletely executed. It appears to be an unfinished and out-of-date art museum web site. There are two external hyperlinks. Throughout the ART-TECH web site, internal hyperlinks consistently lead to expired information and, often, to a complete absence of content. Blank web pages are common on the ART-TECH web site.

ART-TECH could benefit from a greater amount of content. There is, for instance, no educational information on the Site (although its premise is ripe for educational opportunities). Adherence to the Standards is virtually non-existent, and the Siteís interface design is incomplete.

Art educators would most likely not benefit from using this Site as either an instructional or learning resource. Likewise, users might find the Site frustrating to explore and therefore might move beyond it to different web-based content or a different web site altogether.

National Museum of Wildlife Art (

NMWA appears to exemplify a comprehensive art museum web site. It adheres very well to the Standards and provides myriad opportunities for learning both on-line, in the classroom, at home or at another locale. Not only are users introduced to web pages that clearly outline the NMWA collection and purpose, but also they are encouraged to make connections between the Museumís mission and goals, as well as its programs and other opportunities for learning, through the bank of on-line content and activities. All educational resources can be downloaded from the Web and are free-of-charge. Additionally, the NMWA web site exhibits a wealth of interdisciplinary content that users can easily access due to the effective design of its web-based platform.

The on-line Pathways: Increasing Environmental Literacy through the Arts ten-theme curricular aid (, for instance, enables u users to select and make concrete interdisciplinary connections between geography, environmental regeneration, the local Wyoming landscape, the history of the American West and other divergent disciplines. Through Pathways, teachers can download lesson plans suitable for classroom use and students can participate in a number of activities suggested in the on-line curricular aid.

Overall, this site is organized to accord to a consistent and easy-to-navigate interface design. Icons and symbols indicative of Wyoming animal tracks can be activated to help guide users through information, as well as to signal categories of content. Even the choice of color in the NMWA web site ñ ochre, yellow, brown and green ñ reflects Wyoming heritage and an awareness of the region on the part of the Siteís designers.

The features of this art museum web site correlate to the majority of the investigative matrixís criteria. Users might find this Site to be an effective instructional and learning resource.

University Art Museums

These museums function under the auspices of a university ñ public or private ñ in the United States. Often, a university art museumís mandate requires it to serve as a research and teaching institution. As part of an outreach effort, such museums are normally open to the public and school groups. In order to be considered in this study, the art museum must exist on a university campus and target a primary audience of the university-based community of students, faculty and staff. The collection of a university art museum frequently is encyclopedic in nature in order to ensure ample research and teaching opportunities.

Additionally, while university art museums harbor their own missions they often must conform to the mission goals of the greater university under which they operate. This may exert an impact on not only the scope of their collections but also the type of information that appears on their web site.

Indiana University Art Museum (

The IUAM web site can be regarded as a good example of a general information site. Clean, clearly defined interface design, and well-organized content aid users in gathering basic museum information. Each of the Museumís three collections ñ Art of the Western World: Medieval through Modern, Ancient and Asian, and Art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas ñ are presented to users in general terms with little accompanying interpretative information. Additionally, all of IUAMís departments (collections management, curatorial, conservation, education and publications), with their corresponding activities and programs, are generally described for users.

Graphics on the Site download quickly and easily. The lack of auxiliary media employed makes this Site available to many different types of users. Indeed, the IUAM interface design is simple and relies upon only the most basic web tools, thus ensuring that the Site can be explored by a variety of users. Possibly due to the general information approach used in the design of the Site, only vague reference can be found to the type of information desired by the Standards.

Though its general information approach is well organized and informative, the IUAM web site could benefit from a broader range of content in order to enhance the overall information gathering experience for users. After investigating this art museum web site, it appears that users would have to visit the physical IUAM in order to gain a deeper understanding of the Museumís mission and goals, as well as a more meaningful experience derived from exploration of its collection featured on its web site. Its value as an instructional and learning resource, however, may be compromised because of this emphasis on only citing general information.

Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art (

This highly graphical art museum web site presents content related to the nature and collection of the Spencer Museum of Art to users in general terms. The main strength of the Spencer web site can be seen in its large store of on-line images of key objects in the Museumís collections of Asian art, European and American art, photography, works on paper and the Spencer Museum of Art printroom. In the description given for each collection, six to eighteen images are displayed. This provides users with a good idea of the scope of the Spencerís holdings. Specific text describing each of these images features the objectís title, date of completion and artist. The layout and design used for these graphics is visually consistent, yet there is no interpretative or background information provided that corresponds with any of the artworks (though users can hear the pronunciation of artistsí names through an audio clip).

The interface design of the Site is visually consistent but navigationally inconsistent. For instance, the main menu topics presented throughout the Site fluctuate with nearly every page users might accessótopics available on the home page are not necessarily available in other parts of the Site.

Additionally, aside from basic, general museum information, there is little in-depth, interpretative content. The one on-line activity in the Site, the Museum Highlights Activity (, encourages users to ask questions of six specific objects in the Spencer collection but does not provide any background or historical information on them.

Furthermore, little that reflects the Standards can be found in the Spencer web site. As with the IUAM web site, this might be due to the Siteís emphasis on general information.

Users might find the Spencer web site valuable as a source of general museum information and as a place to view many art objects on-line. With the lack of interpretative and explicitly educational content, however, its potential for use as an instructional and learning resource may be nominal.

Special Interest/Ethnic Art Museums

A special interest or ethnic art museum must address the artwork of a specific people, idea or genre, or specific art forms, such as decorative glass. The museumís collection may reflect an encyclopedic scope in nature as long as it conforms to the artwork of a specific people, conceptual category or genre. While a flagship museum frequently contains collections ranging from Northern European painting to Ancient Egyptian mummies, a special interest/ethnic museum focuses only upon, for instance, artwork created by Native Americans or bird paintings.

Importantly, a special interest/ethnic art museum, unlike a regional or local art museum, does not need to reside in an area reflective of its focus (although they often do). The presence of a special interest or ethnic art museum in a community unreflective of its focus can provide a great learning opportunity for the community in which it does reside.

The Museum for African Art (

Overall, The Museum for African Art maintains a very informative web site. All information on the Museumís exhibitions, educational programs and events, travel programs and publications is up-to-date and helpful. One exciting portion of the Site, Young Visitorsí Stories (, highlights the reflective writings of children who participated in museum-based educational programs.

The Site features an attractive and technologically sound interface design that is reflective of the Museumís focus. The primarily black, orange and blue color scheme used throughout the Site provides a good backdrop for images of artworks, photographs of museum program participants and other illustrative materials. Navigation is facilitated through well conceived and consistent web design and user aids.

While The Museum for African Art web site could readily support content that is more expansive ñ both with its thematic focus and it interface design ñ at present, it does not. For instance, there is frequent mention throughout the Site of the importance of understanding and experiencing African art and culture within its specific historical, political and cultural context, yet little attention is given to providing such details. Possibly because of this, although there is reference to information that could be considered to fall within the purview of each of the Standards, each of these conceptual categories about African Art could benefit from more attention. Adherence to the Standards might improve with an expanded scope of content.

The Museum for African Artís web site provides ample opportunities for learning about the Museum but few chances for users to gather in-depth interpretative content. This Siteís value as an instructional and learning tool may be hindered consequently.

Museum of International Folk Art (

MOIFA supports a comprehensively developed web site. Users can access enlightening and useful information that is easy to find and retrieve. Content on the Site covers exhibitions (permanent, temporary and on-line), the Museumís collections, publications, and teaching guides. All of this content adheres to an interdisciplinary focus. A number of content levels targeted to specific audiences ñ ranging from children to adults ñ are presented in the Site. This might encourage a wider audience to discover and use the content purposefully for specific and individual reasons. For these reasons, a broad range of users can access and benefit from the on-line learning opportunities made possible in the MOIFA web site.

Hispanic Folk Arts and The Environment: A New Mexican Perspective (, an on-line teaching guide on the Site, is a curricular unit containing lesson plans about land, adobe, weaving, and food associated with the region. Each of the lesson plans can be correlated with the history of each art form or topic, an introductory on-line video, sample activities and interdisciplinary connections with mathematics, science, language arts, social studies, physical education and the local community. A glossary of terms and an extensive bibliography, with separate sections for students and teachers, are also present in the Hispanic Folk Arts teaching guide. This entire teaching guide can be accessed in both English and Spanish.

The interface design is well-conceived, integrated into MOIFAís institutional focus, and allows users to easily navigate their way through the vast amount of information on the Site. Icons, for instance, are not only reflective of the Museumís collection of folk art but are also consistently functional and purposeful.

Five of the six Standards are reflected in the MOIFA web site. The Site might be enhanced if content relating to content standard two ñ using knowledge of structures and functions ñ was further developed.

The MOIFA web site conforms to the bulk of the criteria in the three-part investigative matrix and appears to present potential for use as a valuable instructional and learning tool for a wide audience.

Electronic Art Museums

With the burgeoning of art museums placing content on the Web, it makes sense that interested individuals and organizations also have the desire to create electronic art museums. The number of electronic art museums is growing and will soon be a competing force for art museum attention on the Web.

Electronic art museums must exist only on the Web. In other words, they should display artwork that, in its on-line exhibited form, cannot be viewed in its entirety at a given institution. Therefore, it may have its "own" collection, but may also represent a conglomeration of artworks from museums around the world.

Unlike "real" museums, electronic museums do not have their own building, place or location to visit outside of the Web. As a result, a visitor may experience new and exciting connections with the electronically based exhibitions.

Frequently, electronic art museums take advantage of specific media or on-line technologies in order to display or encourage users to interact with artwork.

ArtMuseum.Net ( is a fabulous web site that offers myriad opportunities for learning, creating and exploring its on-line activities, exhibitions and in-depth interdisciplinary content. It appears that the Site was created by developers with a wealth of knowledge of and dedication to art education theory and practice, technological know-how, and the Standards. maintains a vast store of auxiliary media that can be accessed by users to greatly enhance their experience exploring the Site. In the Siteís current exhibition, The American Century, users are presented with a number of content angles, ranging from on-line video "tours" conducted by the Whitney Museum of American Artís director to web site-based activities for children and adults.

Presented in conjunction with The American Century, the Family Activity Center is an on-line game, canvas and workbook all in one. Users can play the artwork matching game using its ever-changing memory-style and, after successfully making a match, can read the in-depth interpretative content associated with each object. Users can then create, and also post on, their own artwork using shapes and colors found in objects in artworks included in The American Century. Finally, users can choose amongst 18 creative activities to do at home.

A very technologically sound and savvy interface design complete with animation, audio and video components supports The one drawback of the Site is that it requires advanced computer hardware and software, as well as fast Internet connections. Unfortunately, not all users have access to such equipment and connections. adheres to all of the Standards and thus provides to users and educators relevant potential for use as a valuable instructional and learning resource.

Of all art museum web sites investigated in this study, fulfills more criteria in the investigative matrix than any other art museum web site. This is of particular interest as the Site exists as an on-line extension of an actual art museum exhibition, but can also be utilized as a stand alone, all-inclusive art instructional and learning resource and guide.

The American Museum of Photography (

This site exhibits well-conceived, concise, clearly developed descriptive and interpretative content. A range of different users will find that it features a simplicity of design that not only provides but also facilitates an understanding of depth and breadth of information.

The Site currently includes seven exhibitions. Within each exhibition, background, historical and interpretative content is offered to users, as well as information about each photographís artist, function and photographic process. Other sections of the Site include registrar/photograph collecting tips and information, information on how to preserve and protect photographs, and a text-based "guided tour" from the Museumís Director. Unique to all the art museum web sites investigated in this study, the American Museum of Photography site provides a glossary of photography terms and processes, as well as a hyperlink to the Siteís webmaster, who provides tips and hints on how to best experience the Museum.

The interface design of the Site is simple, using full pages (as opposed to frames) throughout in order to avoid clutter. All images and content are presented on a white background with a predominating use of black text. The technical structure is very sound, current and active throughout the Site.

Overall, the American Museum of Photography web site adheres to all of the Standards, though it could benefit from the inclusion of more interdisciplinary content. Art educators could use this Site as a valuable instructional and learning resource.


The ultimate goal of this study is to provide art educators with an example of a method that can be used to investigate additional art museum web sites and web sites with art education related content. The ten art museums web sites examined in this study serve as an illustration of how the three-part investigative matrix can be applied to web-based materials. It is hoped that art and museum educators, as well as cultural web site designers, will use this method for examining web sites as a set of guidelines to assist them in using other and creating new art museum and art educational web sites that adhere to sound criteria.

Table 1: Technological, Design and Source Considerations of the Web


Corresponding Questions

Scope of Content

  1. Is the information limited or expansive? What is the relative breadth and depth of a given discussion?
  2. Are a variety of viewpoints offered in the siteís content?
  3. In what context is the information presented? What general information is considered in the site? Does general information lead to more detailed information?
  4. How does the content appear to be presented in terms of the community in which the art museum resides? Is there an effort to include the public in the discourse of the museum?
  5. Does the content of the site take into consideration relevant information and discussion of divergent yet related disciplines? Is an interdisciplinary approach to the content considered?
  6. Does the site take advantage of the Webís technical capabilities to provide a vast amount of information and branching out to additional information? Are hyperlinks provided to access such information?

Content Validity/ Verifiability of Details

  1. What kind of information is on the web site? Describe the nature of the content.
  2. Are references cited within the text of the site? Is a comprehensive bibliography provided? How many references are cited? Do they represent a variety of viewpoints or disciplines? If no references are provided, is there a disclaimer as to where the content came from?
  3. Are hyperlinks provided to related information or on-line sources within the text or bibliography of the site?
  4. Can creators or contributors to the web siteís content be easily contacted for further information or clarification of information?
  5. If information is not cited and creators and contributors are not easily contacted, how can users gauge whether or not the art museum web siteís content is credible?

Currency of Information

  1. Is it apparent when the web site was last updated? Is a date provided?
  2. Are schedules, opening times and directions to the art museum accurate?
  3. If traveling shows are presented in the site, are they still on display or have they moved on to a new location?
  4. If visited frequently, does the information on the site change or is it static over a determined length of time?
  5. Is information still available if a site is undergoing renovation?
  6. Are symbols or icons used in the interface that distinguishes "new" information from other information?


Corresponding Questions

Credibility of Source

  1. Who wrote the information on the art museum web site? If it was a team of individuals, are they all credited for their input?
  2. What credentials do the authors have?
  3. Are there other publications by this same author available?
  4. Does the site provide professional or biographical information on the individual(s) who contributed written material to the site?
  5. Are the authors positively or negatively recognized in their field?
  6. Can the authors of the content be contacted for additional information or clarification?
  7. Are the authors the original creators of the content? If not, do they cite their sources?

Point of View/Bias/ Objectivity

  1. What are the goals, aims and mission of the sponsoring institution? Are these clearly communicated on the art museumís web site?
  2. What is the overall "message?" Is it clearly conveyed?
  3. Is there any hidden agenda on the site? Is there a sponsoring agency, corporation or organization that has some influence into how the content of the art museum web site is conveyed to users?
  4. Does the point of view of the web site, in general, fall in line with the museumís mission? Do users have access to the institutional mission or goals of the site?
  5. Does there appear to be any kind of "quality control," such as disclaimers or disclosures of conflict of interest, in the site?

Layout/Design/ Navigation

  1. What does the web site look like?
  2. Do the graphics used in the web siteís design serve some kind of purpose such as functional, communicative or identity?
  3. Do icons and symbols clearly communicate the tasks they are capable of doing such as printing, going "home," and going forward and back?
  4. Is there confusion among graphical elements and their function?
  5. Is the design and layout of the web site logical? Is navigation through the information intuitive?
  6. Do hyperlinks lead to where they are supposed to lead, thus enhancing navigation?
  7. Is there a degree of creativity found in the design of the site?
  8. Were professional graphic designers consulted or contracted to create the layout of the site?
  9. If an art museumís web site is very large, is it consistent throughout the whole product? For example, are there templates used that clearly convey important types of information?
  10. Is content on the site organized clearly? Are specific informational items easily accessed and found within the site? Is a site map provided? Or, is it difficult to determine where, for instance, one can find information about the collections?


Corresponding Questions

Media Integration

  1. What types of additional media are used in the art museum web site?
  2. Is additional media used purposefully rather than just for the sake of including it?
  3. Do users have the option to "turn-off" these functions if they are not willing or able to activate them?
  4. Are usersí experiences enhanced as a result of inclusion of these additional features?

Interactivity/ Usability

  1. Is the content of the web site organized in such a way that users can access it intuitively?
  2. Does the interface design support the intuitive organization of content?
  3. Can users use the web site? At what level?
  4. Is there a specific user profile or target audience for the site? Does the information conform to their assumed level of prior knowledge?
  5. How effective is the web site in allowing users to successfully complete a series of predetermined tasks? Is the site also effective in fulfilling usersí goals?
  6. How do users feel about working with the site? What is their attitude towards the site?
  7. Would users refer friends, family and fellow web users to the site to obtain information?

Table 2: Components of the Web Thought to Enhance Learning


Corresponding Questions

Unbounded Nature of Information

  1. Can users provide input ñ either in the form of suggestions or content additions or deletions ñ to the site?
  2. Is information on the art museum web site open to outside change?
  3. Are both learner and producer roles supported in the art museum web site?
  4. Does the site encourage on-line communication with others?
  5. Does content in the web site change regularly?
  6. Is the art museum web siteís structure flexible?

Connectivity with Related and Divergent Information

  1. Does the art museum web site promote an interdisciplinary approach to its content?
  2. Are hyperlinks to non-museum information and resources provided?
  3. Is related and divergent information used purposefully and appropriately?
  4. Are a variety of viewpoints or opinions about the content offered on the art museumís web site?
  5. Are provisions made on the art museum web site to bring a user back "home?"
  6. Is there an "on-line tutorial" that may serve as a guide?

User Centered Content and Design

  1. Is a target audience clearly identified in the art museum web site?
  2. Does the technology play "second-fiddle," thus placing an emphasis on content?
  3. Is the purpose of the site logically matched with specific users?
  4. Are there points in the site where the interests of the target audience become vague or start to "break-up?"
  5. Are different user profiles, with corresponding content, offered on the art museum web site?

Self-guided/ Direct Manipulation and Control by Users

Are the following items present in the art museum web site to encourage manipulation and control?

  1. Hyperlinks.
  2. Intriguing content.
  3. Opportunities to have different experiences with each visit, such as regularly updated information.
  4. Connections between content and real-world situations.
  5. Technologically sound design and user interface.
  6. Logically-place icons and symbols, with relevant representations.


Table 3: The National Visual Arts Standards (NAEA, 1994)

Content Standard

Associated Achievement Standards as Questions for Investigation

1: Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes

  1. Does the art museum web site support a variety of media, techniques and processes in its design?
  2. Is content available that analyzes how different media can be effective or not in communicating ideas?
  3. Are qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques and processes used intentionally to enhance communication and the expression of ideas in the art museum web site?

2: Using knowledge of structures and functions

  1. Are the effects of visual structures and functions apparent in the art museum web site? Is there explicit reference to these effects anywhere in the site?
  2. Are organizational structures employed and analyzed? If so, is reference made to what makes them effective or not effective in the communication of ideas?
  3. Are the qualities of structures and functions of art used to improve communication of ideas to users?

3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas

  1. Does the art museum web site contain an integration of visual, spatial and temporal concepts with content to communicate intended meaning in the web site?
  2. Are subjects, themes and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values and aesthetics that communicate meaning employed in the art museum web site?

4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

  1. Does the art museum web site contain basic historical and cultural information so that users can know and compare the characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures?
  2. Does the art museum web site describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts?
  3. Does the art museum web site describe, analyze and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work or art?

Content Standard

Associated Achievement Standards as Questions for Investigation

5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of [the studentís] work and the work of others

  1. Does the art museum web site present opportunity for users to compare multiple purposes for creating works of art?
  2. Are opportunities presented for users to analyze contemporary and historic meaning in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry on the art museum web site?
  3. Are users encouraged to describe and compare a variety of individual responses to their own [web] creations and to creations from various eras and cultures?

6: Making connections between the visual arts and other disciplines

  1. Does the art museum web site provide users with chances to compare the characteristics of works in two or more art forms that share similar subject matter, historical periods or cultural context?
  2. Does the art museum web site present ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines are interrelated with the visual arts?


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