Connecting the Community to Art

Cincinnati Art Museum’s responsive website and interactive gallery bring art to life and help drive record-breaking attendance

A new website with a custom interface to the museum’s digital collection and a resource library for educators drives a whole new level of engagement for visitors, whether they’re online or in person.

CHALLENGE
Often referred to as the crown jewel of the Queen City of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) plays a crucial role in encouraging economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. 

Driving attendance is paramount to the success of any museum, and Cincinnati Art Museum is no exception. CAM needed to drive traffic both online and in-person, and needed the website to help achieve that objective.

With an unparalleled collection of more than 65,000 works spanning 6,000 years, the museum generates exciting, thought-provoking, and memorable encounters with art, promoting the idea that art isn’t something distant or foreign, but something that touches our lives every day – something with the power to change how we view the world and ourselves.

While visiting CAM in person creates these encounters and sparks genuine engagement and connection, the museum’s website fell far short of creating similar engagement.  The site wasn’t mobile-friendly, making it difficult for many users to navigate effectively – a significant issue given that the majority of Internet access now occurs through mobile devices. 

The Museum also utilizes digital image management system Piction, which includes images of all works of art along with related data. Piction includes copyright management functionality, and CAM needed a way for this system to integrate with the website for an optimal virtual visit experience.

STRATEGY

The Sanger & Eby team worked in partnership with the CAM team, utilizing input from community partners and the public to re-imagine the experience using smart design thinking, creating an elegant and streamlined experience that not only beautifully showcases CAM’s collections, but also draws visitors into the site to explore programs and offerings and drive attendance.

A custom console utility retrieves data updates from CAM’s digital media warehouse solution, Piction, so CAM’s collection can be displayed in a continually updated digital art gallery on the site – providing a whole new way to interact and engage with the museum for online visitors even when they’re unable to visit the museum in person. Copyright management functionality ensures that copyrighted works are protected and that zooming and downloading functions are disabled, while works in the public domain are available for image download.

Sanger & Eby implemented the Umbraco open-source content management system (CMS) to enable the CAM team to easily update site copy and images without the need for an in-house website development team, helping CAM keep its site current while managing ongoing costs effectively – a critical need for any non-profit, and especially true for a museum with frequently changing collections, shows and events.

Improved navigation, intuitive design, a flexible and extensible events calendar, and accessibility help connect more people with art – with a special focus on teachers and students. Elegant new tools provide resources for educators – including more than 300 cross-curricular classroom resources housed in a searchable database. These tools and resources enable teachers to bring art into the classroom and help new generations connect with the benefits and value of art.

RESULTS
The website launched to widespread acclaim and international news coverage, and has helped drive a new level of success for the Cincinnati Art Museum. Attendance is up more than 30%, and the Museum continues to build attendance and expand community support.

Museum Louis and Louise Dieterle Nippert Director Cameron Kitchin says “Through our digital strategy, we now bring art and scholarship into everyone’s mobile device, home, and workplace. The museum’s new website provides a user-oriented experience and new research capabilities so we can better share the story of art – past, present, and future.”

Listen to Sanger & Eby's Jeff Webster and Cincinnati Art Museum's Nicole Kroger discuss this innovative project on the Responsive Web Design Podcast with Karen McGrane and Ethan Marcotte!

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