The Met’s Object Page: Towards a new synthesis of scholarship and storytelling

Paper

Thursday, April 04, 2019: 11:00am - 12:30pm - Back Bay CD

Elena Villaespesa, Pratt Institute, USA, Madhav Tankha, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA

Published paper: The Met’s Object Page: Towards a New Synthesis of Scholarship and Storytelling

The Met’s “object page” is the first touchpoint for over 70% of the visitors to its online collection. The user journey to this experience and throughout it has many permutations and goals. Users come from a variety of sources: search engines, social media, other websites, and are greatly diverse in their motivations and familiarity with art. The 450,000+ Object pages are a testament to the encyclopedic nature of The Met itself—offering a great breadth and depth of meticulously cultivated information and highlighting the connectivity of cultures and multiple interpretations of the objects it exhibits. The objects themselves span a dizzying array of media: painting, sculpture, manuscripts, jewelry, coins, tapestry, baseball cards, furniture, musical instruments, and more.

A significant challenge clearly arises: how to display all of this ever-expanding information to tell the story of the artwork in a manner that is authentic, comprehensive, accessible, and inspiring to all users—whether academic or casual browsers—across devices. As museums try to define their existence in the digital space, how does the object page contribute in projecting The Met’s voice and expand its outreach beyond the museum’s walls.

To achieve this end, the digital team at The Met conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative tests on the pages to gauge users’ online behavior, interests, expectations, and frustrations, across user segments and devices. The methods and tools used included web analytics, heatmaps, user testing (both remote and face-to-face), surveys, user interviews, and A/B testing. This paper will present the findings about the user expectations, preferences, and behaviors on the object page as well as a discussion of the benefits and challenges of the methods used to collect and analyze the data.

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