web sites for museum photography exhibits
Kate Steinitz, Backstroke, 1930
One of my favorite photographs from the Moma’s excellent “Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography" exhibit (ends next week!) was by Kate Steinitz, an artist I had never heard of before. There’s a short bio here, but there’s no good image of this photograph online. The only thing I found was shot by a MOMA visitor named Craig and shared on Flickr.
With billions of photos online, it’s surprising how many great ones still exist only in the real world, with no proper representation online. This photograph is a masterpiece, it feels so much like what Roni Horn is doing, but in the 1930s. It was shot with large format, the print offers a lot of texture and detail; the visitor snapshot doesn’t do it justice.
The best web site recently for a photography exhibit was last year’s Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century. This was as blockbuster as photography exhibits get, and not every exhibit has the budget for a custom site.
But there are elements of the HCB site that can be followed:
- All the photographs from the exhibit are on the site
- Presentation of content is in standard HTML and jpegs
- Photographs are large jpegs that look good on a big monitor
- Photographs are presented in similar order to the original exhibit, with relevant information about each
- Flash was only used for audio clips
It should be easy for visitors to track down information about a favorite photograph they saw in an exhibit. If they want to email this photograph to a few friends, encouraging them to see the exhibit, they should be able to with standard URLs. This is one of several reasons Flash is such an awful choice for the presentation of photographs. So many photographs are locked away in Flash files, rarely seen today because people don’t wait for the gallery to load, and worthless tomorrow, as this content is not compatible with most mobile and tablet devices.
Museums should keep in mind: methods to “protect” content generally only stop the people that want to promote it.