walker art center sets new standard

The Walker Art Center’s new website is blowing my mind.  I’m still making my way through all of the features but with each click my inner museum geek squeals with delight.  Already on my list of favorite art museums, the Walker Art Center is once again demonstrating that its mission to be “a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences” isn’t mere lip service.

Having been part of a museum web development team I know how challenging it is to accomplish a website redesign.  Making seismic shifts in the virtual realm mirrors the effort in the physical as museums–particularly larger institutions–tend to be bureaucratic monoliths that dig in their collective heels at even the thought of change, much less its actual execution.

Museum leaders have begrudgingly accepted that websites and social media are a necessary evil but it is evident that many believe the purpose should be purely advertorial and the conversation primarily one-way: “Let us tell you what we’re doing and how amazing we are and why we’re the experts. Now give us your money.” And to make matters worse, only certain staffers are typically allowed to contribute to that discourse, providing an even more limited viewpoint.

As Museum Nerd noted in a great post about the website launch, the Walker Art Center has completely upended those antiquated practices, proving that shedding an insular, myopic and top down leadership model results in creativity, innovation and engagement.

Museum leaders take heed: it’s time to step your game up.

See also: Seb Chan’s interview, “The Museum Website as a Newspaper” for background info on the development process.

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5 thoughts on “walker art center sets new standard

  1. Pingback: Museum as Media: The Walker Art Center’s New Web Site | Museum Beyond

  2. I have heard an awful lot about the Walker’s new website. I haven’t had a lot of time to spend on it but my first reaction is “holy content, Batman!” Who decided to revert to the old newspaper style layout for a website? And, who has time to manage all of that content? The homepage alone would be a full-time job. At the same time, I’m hearing that people don’t want this much content. They want to know how to get here, what time we’re open, etc. I may be the minority but I think this website misses the mark. There must be a happy compromise out there somewhere.

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    • You’re correct, this type of content-driven site would not be possible without someone managing it. The Walker Art Center is fortunate to have employees dedicated to that effort. Having everything in-house gives the site the opportunity to expand or contract quickly if the need arises. The Seb Chan post I referenced has background info on how that work is distributed among the Walker’s editorial staff.

      The reason I think this is such a monumental shift is because the site is not just providing basic tombstone information (although it is rightfully featured on the homepage for those who need it) or regurgitating marketing messages but redefining how an art-focused institution can regard itself in relation to the outside world. With a site like this, the Walker becomes a place that invites scholarship, arts writing and critical thought into the institution as well as disseminating it to a wider audience.

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  3. Thanks for the kind words! And sorry the beta preview never worked out… If there is a next time, I’ll figure it out. 🙂

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