Italian Semester of Presidency of the European Union
EUROPEAN CONFERENCE OF MINERVA
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
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,’
When you enter the section entitled, 'Exhibitions’, a small
navigation bar indicates that you have arrived in this part of
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,
The user can also find relevant Web-links, i.e. to the museums’
homepages, to practical information such as admission fees, opening
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
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
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.