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Italian Semester of Presidency of the European Union


Quality for cultural Web sites
Online Cultural Heritage for Research, Education and Cultural Tourism Communities

Parma, 20-21 November 2003, Auditorium Paganini

Monika Hagedorn-Saupe - Axel Ermert
(Institut für Museumskunde, Berlin, Germany)

The Euromuse project and the new museum documentation system of the State Museums of Berlin

As the name indicates, Euromuse is a European undertaking. It is an internet portal to inform on large exhibitions and on the museums which are presenting them. Our intention is to create a European portal, a forum that highlights common European identities and fosters cultural communication.
Euromuse is a real network in the sense that the participating museums themselves provide all of the information about their respective exhibitions. Specific information pertaining to the participating museums is provided in the local language and always in English. Currently, all the navigation on the Euromuse site is in English only. The National Gallery in London ensures that the contributions are carefully and expertly edited in the English language.
There was a core group of seven partners who initiated the project about four years ago: the Louvre and the Réunion des Musées nationaux in Paris, France, the National Gallery in London, UK, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria, the Statens Museum for Kunst in Kopenhagen, Denmark and the State Museums in Berlin, Germany.
At present, we have partners from fourteen European countries in which eleven different languages are spoken. Therefore, there are eleven different languages in the system which present contributions. As we develop the system further, we intend to implement full multilinguality for the navigation, so as to make it operate in several additional languages. Here as elsewhere our aim is to underscore Europe’s cultural variety. For example, from Italy, already 15 museums joined the network.
Four years ago, the project idea was born. It took the group about two years to develop a first version of the portal which then went live in a soft-launch two years ago. It took us another two years to improve the site, to evaluate the performance, to work with focus groups discussing the usability and the functionality, and to check whether we offer the information our target group wants. During this period, two new versions went online. After those preparations, it is now time to make the site known. We, therefore, are very happy to be able to present the portal today. A series of press conferences and press releases will follow within the next weeks in several European capitals – beginning with a special press conference in Berlin 28th of November, continuing the 1st of December in Athens, and more....
The State Museums of Berlin, specifically its branch, the Institute for Museum Studies, has currently assumed responsibility for the technical development and maintenance of the Euromuse Website.
Now, we would like to introduce the portal in more detail to you.

The Euromuse Website: Design and Navigation
The homepage presents a slightly different face each time you enter again. This is because, by random, a different image of one of the participating museums appears with each new entering of the page. Consequently, when you come back some days later, a different exhibition image does show.
When we enter the site, a central component of Euromuse, and one of the first the visitor encounters, is the navigation bar at top of the page.
Also visible on all subsequent screens, the “navigation bar” contains six buttons that allow the user to reach each section of the site from each screen. From left to right the buttons are: ‘home’ (which return the visitor to splash page), 'exhibitions,’ 'museums,’ 'news,’ 'resources,’ and 'shops.’
When you enter the section entitled, 'Exhibitions’, a small navigation bar indicates that you have arrived in this part of the site.
In all cases, the title of the exhibition displays in English, as well as in the original language of the exhibition. At this point, the user may click on the title of the exhibition to receive more information either in the exhibition's language or in English. If you click, for example, on the exhibitions language you get the following result: information on the exhibition (together with up to seven images in the ‘picture gallery’), information on its running-time, the location, the museum, organizers, etc.
The user can also find relevant Web-links, i.e. to the museums’ homepages, to practical information such as admission fees, opening hours etc.
If you had clicked on the title in English, the following is the result. The same information appears in English language.
The entry page or the ‘exhibition’ section also displays information on exhibitions that will open soon. If the user clicks on these announcements, s/he gets directly to the respective exhibition announcement described above.
Intended as the key element of Euromuse, the section offers convenient search facilities. The user can choose between several possibilities. For example, a search is possible by topic. If you click on that button, you can choose from a drop-down list the topic which is of interest to you. Further possibilities are by country or by time (beginning and end date).
Another possibility for a selection is to click on “quick search” where also a drop-down list opens up, offering a choice of months and years.
The entry page to the 'museum' section offers search facilities similar to the entry page of the exhibition section. Pull-down menus allow one to search by country, by city or by the museum’s name.
Like in the exhibition section, here in the “museum section” does exist the choice of original or English language version, and the same feature of a “picture gallery” is available which shows the museum building as well as impressions from the collection. The information provided consists of the museum logo, linked to the museum's own homepage. Also displayed are a description of the museum and its collections, its location and accessibility, and links to its running, upcoming and past exhibitions.
Coming back to the exhibition entry page for a moment, there is this latter feature to mention, namely the possibility to go to the exhibition archive (‘past exhibitions’), here the user can find exhibitions that have expired; nevertheless, their entire information is kept in the database and is displayed - except for the images, which are removed due to copyright reasons.
Let us now explain a little about the evaluation of the first versions of Euromuse and the changes carried out as a result of it.

Changes made due to the results of the evaluation
Some changes have been made due to the results of the evaluations, to meet critical factors that were identified. For example:
A new design of the start screen. What you see here, is the new homepage. It is less static than the old one which we show here for comparison. The old homepage always looked the same when entering Euromuse, without any information on concrete exhibitions or museums.
Here you can see the first version of the exhibition section entry page. It had no flags for the countries, no indicator for the language, an old, more difficult to use calendar, and a mixing of exhibitions and museums on the same page. As against this, the new design of the page looks like that.
To summarize the current state: here you can see the distribution of partner museums of Euromuse by country.
And here this map shows you those countries in Europe from which museums are already participating in the Euromuse portal.

Next steps for the further development of Euromuse
While we see the opening page here again, here are some thoughts how we envision the further development of Euromuse.
Our immediate goal is to consolidate the existing system. In other words, we plan to update the site in the coming weeks by including more museums, more exhibitions and additional news and resources to make frequent visits worthwhile. Keeping Euromuse posted as a new, attractive tool which continues to be up-to-date in respect to its contents, presentation, and technology is our goal. Through careful quality control and content co-operation from participating museums, Euromuse aims to achieve long-term customer loyalty.
We also think about:

  • co-operations with the tourism sector, to facilitate the access of, i.a. travel organisers to relevant information on European culture;
  • new facilities for the academic use of Euromuse, by expanding Euromuse with a section for ‘publications’ – i.e. providing online the museums' catalogues of the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions as well as scientific publications covering the museums research activities.

And now quickly for something completely different.
The State Museums of Berlin are presently in the process of introducing an integrated overall museum documentation system (MDS). Switching from several different softwares (or no computer use at all), one unified system shall be used in future. The State Museums are seventeen different institutions, ranging from art, archaeology, ethnology to arts and crafts. This joint initiative means working on agreeing on standards in order to be able to give access to objects from all our museums together on the Web.


Copyright Minerva Project 2003-11, last revision 2003-11-26, edited by Minerva Editorial Board.
URL: www.minervaeurope.org/events/parma/papers/hagedorn.htm
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