Screenshot of GitHub webpage showing the files and description of the open access content released by the museum
Screenshot of GitHub webpage showing the files and description of the open access content released by the museum
A screenshot of our recently released open access GitHub repository

This is what we are here for, as a sector: To make the results of human creativity from all times and all corners of the world accessible to all citizens, to foster new knowledge and inspire new creativity.

Merete Sanderhoff (SMK) on open access

It’s here. It’s finally here. The Whitney Museum of American Art’s first completely public open access datasets:

https://github.com/whitneymuseum/open-access

This has been a long time coming, and something we’ve been excitedly watching many of our peers embrace. So what exactly is this?

What open access means

Open access is the sharing of collections data or other culturally-rich information held by…


Images of artworks on the online collection replaced with wooden boards, over a black background and greyed-out text
Images of artworks on the online collection replaced with wooden boards, over a black background and greyed-out text
Screenshot of American Artist’s Looted at sunset, from whitney.org.

Recently we published a new Sunrise/Sunset on whitney.org by American Artist, called Looted. The artist and project has been written about elsewhere, and while the most important thing I can say is go check it out, I think it’s also a good moment to talk about why Sunrise/Sunset is such an important, and unique series.

Since 2009 at sunrise and sunset (New York City time) whitney.org has been taken over by artists. For those 30 or so seconds twice a day, what happens on whitney.org is up to them. We’ve hosted figure eight balls, glowing orbs of light, color swatches…


The Whitney online collection as of March 2020.

*Author’s note: I’ve been sitting on a half-finished draft of this for too long, and while I know this is a bit of an odd time to share, I have very little else to do. I hope that these kinds of online museum resources can be a positive outlet for boredom and inspiration in the weeks and months ahead.*

Last year we replaced our separate online collection site with a new experience integrated within whitney.org. We made this shift for a number of reasons, but the biggest was that this allowed us to take full control over the UI/UX, and…


The author scanning a QR code in the Whitney’s museum guide.

I can’t tell if you QR codes are dead, undead, or if they never died in the first place, but I can tell you we’ve been trialing them at the Whitney Museum of American Art over the last year. Anecdotally, everybody familiar with what QR codes are seems to have an anecdote about them, but we wanted to determine more systematically whether or not they might be a useful tool for driving visitors into digital content while at the Museum, with any meaningful levels of utilization. And as it turns out, for us, QR codes are alive and well.

Connecting to the Mobile Guide

With…


The Whitney’s collection defines and drives much of our mission and our work. It is a unique resource, offering a lens into the historical and contemporary landscape of American art through more than 3,400 artists and 23,000 works of art. With the opening of the Whitney’s new building in 2015, nearly every work in the Museum’s collection was made available online for the first time.

That the initial platform was developed and launched alongside a flurry of other initiatives reflects the challenges, scope, and successes of the release. …


Google analytics was not built for the arts. Most of the time that’s fine: as a museum we still care about all kinds of standard metrics. Pageviews still matter, session behavior matters, referrals matter, ecommerce matters, and when we need something specific to our platform or its extensions we can usually cover it with custom event tracking or find another tool that can give us what we need. But as we’ve tried to more cohesively analyze data around our exhibitions, it’s become more and more labor intensive to identify the throughlines between content spread across different aspects of our online…


Changing user behavior through supportive content

Today at the Whitney on 12/3/2017.

A few months ago we launched a new visit planning feature on whitney.org. Varyingly referred to internally as “Today at the Whitney” or “What’s on Today”, this feature came about after a conversation with a number of our colleagues in Visitor Services around our Plan Your Visit and Events calendar pages. They brought up how difficult it can be for visitors to get a good view “at a glance” of what all is happening at the Whitney on a given day, and wondered if there was a way we could better serve this need on whitney.org. …


A lot has changed about whitney.org over the last year. This includes the entire platform underpinning the site, and a number of major usability and user interface improvements, from reworked navigation, to new mobile experiences for audio and video, to the incorporation of outside voices in our exhibition content. And with growing distance from the complexities of launching a new website, our data-related work has been picking up steam as we’ve been able to devote more time and mindshare to it, which in turn has begun to more deeply impact our design thinking and decision making processes. …


A tale of museum data in the year 2016

Interning with MoMA’s Digital Media department is great. Building a dashboard to track metrics across the museum is really complicated. Both of these statements are true, which is the kind of authoritative certainty I strive for in data analytics. This summer my job has been to create a dynamic dashboard that pulls in data from sources all over MoMA, that ideally updates automatically.

On its face, building a dashboard might sound like a straightforward task, composed of a) collecting the data, and b) visualizing it. But in practice it’s been much more complicated, requiring a significant amount of both human…

Colin Brooks

Senior Developer at the Whitney Museum

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