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.