Yale University Art Gallery
The Yale University Art Gallery houses a collection of more than 200 American portrait and mourning miniatures, which were the subject of a special exhibition at the Gallery in 2000. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Yale University Press published a book titled Love and Loss and an online learning resource for children called "Miniature Mania" was developed. Subsequently, the exhibition's curator, Robin Jaffee Frank, partnered with the CMI2 on the development of a web site prototype that would serve as a permanent "exhibition" of the Gallery's miniature holdings.
The Art Gallery houses most of the core information about the collection in a database called TMS (The Museum System). In the interest of having a web site that is automatically updated as the collection grows, the CMI2 proposed development of a web publication system that would draw object images and core metadata directly from TMS, while also enabling curators to develop contextual information specific to the web exhibit.
To test this approach, twenty-five representative American portrait and mourning miniatures were selected, and the relevant data from their records was copied into a separate database that would simulate the Art Gallery's TMS database. Through live queries, the prototype site would always reflect the most current information available about Yale's miniatures collection.
The prototype website offers viewers several ways of navigating the objects in the web exhibit. A timeline shows each object in chronological order. Viewers can also read a historical narrative that situates groups of miniatures within particular eras of American history. In addition, those viewers who are most interested in painting technique, or in particular artists or sitters, can navigate the collection through customized search capabilities.
The prototype was well-received by members of the Art Gallery, and this approach to building web exhibitions will inform subsequent projects created for the Art Gallery's main web site.