January 12th, 2011
What can museums do to encourage visitors to make a trip to the museum?
In 2010, AQ worked with the Setouchi International Art Festival, Tokyo Illustrators Society and Tokyo Art Beat to upgrade their digital communication strategies. In 2011, as we gear up for fresh challenges with new cultural institution partners, we highlight interesting event websites around the world.
Send us your suggestions on Twitter.
Late last year RMN, FaberNovel, Les 84 & Orange released a beautiful website for the Monet 2010 Exhibition, at the Grand Palais in Paris until the end of January 2011.
But for all its extensive content and masterful use of Flash, it did not make me want to visit the exhibition.
Let me use this casual review of the website, as an opportunity to highlight what museums can do to enhance potential visitors experience of an exhibition and get them to make the trip to the museum.
There are 2 mains sections of the site. The gallery, which lets you browse through an astounding 150 artworks produced between 1840 and 1926 grouped in 4 sections and 15 smart exhibition tours. The Journey section presents 27 amazing faux-3D animated artworks and 12 scripted interactions. This is some very impressive content and made my visit a very unique experience.
But actually, nothing made me feel that this was more than an online homage to the Master probably because it was both overwhelming and lacking the basic info I am used to reading online on an event’s website. As a potential visitor, I am expecting to:
While the Journey teaser was a great way to present the exhibition in ways that match the opportunities afforded by the digital medium, I think that there is also a risk to irremediably break the bond between the exhibition website and the actual event, the online experience and the actual visit.
As a potential visitor, I have legitimate questions about the show:
What is the exhibition space like? The Grand Palais is an amazing structure that commands a visit with or without a hosted exhibition. Will I be facing the same old exhibition layout or is this show layout as unique as its website?
What is the scale of Monet’s paintings? A personal favorite of mine. I have often shed tears in front of classic impressionist paintings suddenly realizing how big and how beautiful the strokes and colours were – after having only seen them in tiny online/print reproductions for years.
What are other people saying about the event? I could just Google or Twitter the event name, but I believe that the event website should take the lead in offering visitor/journalist comments for all to read.
What are the most popular pieces on show? If I only have a few minutes to devote to the site’s content, I want to be able to quickly see which pieces I shouldn’t miss during my visit.
It’s great to see an event website translated in 5 languages, but be careful as poor translations will hurt the credibility of the website. As often with this type of websites, English feels rushed or less than native at times (the “sentence by sentence” translation syndrome).
A website of this size should also aim to take into consideration the reputation of the artist in the various communities. For a site to truly become global, it must care about what each country knows and likes about the artist.
Japan loves Monet and Japanese tourists in Paris probably lead foreign visits to the Musée de l’Orangerie. They are most likely much more knowledgeable about Monet than the average Frenchman and should be offered customized content to reflect this.
Moreover, at the visitor level, an exhibition website has the potential to develop special content for various types of users, from the Monet first-timers to the Monet-expert.
Make it participatory. To make a website social and encourage people to interact with the content and promote it, one must think beyond tiny Twitter and Facebook icons on top of artworks in the Gallery section.
Make it real. Most of Monet’s landscapes and cityscapes are truly beautiful and begging to be paid a visit in person.
Make it load fast The first screen should not take more than 10-20 seconds to load a big flash animation. 2 minutes to load any section from Tokyo on a fiber optic connection is pretty discouraging for anyone not a fan of Monet, or a web designer ready to put up with long waits to browse through a beautiful site.
Make it repeat-visit friendly. Take the Journey section. It’s long and very beautiful, but it’s very heavy to load.
At the end of the Journey section of the Monet 2010 website, I was presented with a survey.
Here is Question 10 and my answers:
10) You talk about the “Journey” section with a friend. Do you agree with him/her
(Please rate from: 1 = I do not agree at all ; 6 = I totally agree)
• It’s a beautiful staging of Monet’s paintings [5/6]
• The website is easy to use [4/6]
• This “Journey” gives a special insight in the paintings [1/6]
• It is a unique experience ; I’ve never seen such thing before [3/6]
• I learnt things about Monet thanks to the “Journey” [1/6]
All event organizers should strive to address four major challenges when building an online experience linked to an exhibition:
Project announcements, interviews and essays on design, typography, and the Japanese web.