We all acknowledge the wisdom of planning, though often retrospectively. Moving beyond class papers, we, as art historians and professionals, have to be very conscious of our audience, who have expectations that need to be met. They approach our work not usually from the perspective of specialist but more often as an interested generalist. What do we want the audience to get from engaging with our work? This is seems to be the first question answered when conceiving any project, but especially for a digital one.
This question is even more complex for museums and cultural institutions. They have multiple audiences with drastically varying expectations. They cannot ignore the first-time museum visitor who has only experienced art through representations. Or the academic who has spent the last ten year studying an artist whose work is only on display above a door on the third floor (true story). Physical space is a constraint that is hard to overcome, but virtual space also needs to be managed so it works effectively to both draw in visitors and provide resources. Web projects are also just one part of a larger strategy, one that includes exhibitions, various types of programming and publications.
In looking at multiple art-related website, we had the opportunity to consider different approaches. However, there seems to be a need to acknowledge that while nothing is perfect, we can still applaud the efforts and the move towards greater transparency and accessibility of art. If we know the goal of our digital effort and its audience, we then have a criteria for evaluating which tools, platforms, interfaces, etc best suit our purposes, be it omeka or scalar. These tools seem to offer up a limitless potential, and seem (maybe deceptively) ease to use. Nonetheless, I’m still thinking through how I can make good use of them. But they do make me more committed to cleaning up my metadata lists.