The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s new website, launched in November of last year, reflects a new visual identity for the museum that, in turn, is a manifestation of the museum’s personality: inventive, welcoming, generous, and provocative. The site is built to demonstrate the museum’s philosophy of integrating and interweaving exhibitions and collections, programs and educational activities, and as such eschews the current web design practice of representing site sections through glamorous “hero” images to create a more balanced view of programs and works. It is built to support the contribution of content from across the institution and beyond, allowing the resource to become a rich archive of information about the museum and the artists it showcases. Highlights of the new site include:
-A homepage ticker that can be used for dynamic messaging about programs and events.
-A Collections homepage that is built to display the museum’s entire collection at a glance.
-Installation views and interpretive materials for exhibitions dating back to the museum’s founding in 1967. As with the Collections homepage, the entire exhibition history is viewable at once from the Exhibitions landing page.
-A rare commitment to web accessibility for visitors with hearing and vision impairment, including descriptions of many of the images on the site, transcripts and subtitles for most videos and audio files, and an adherence to screen reader-friendliness that has been tested by a rigorous panel of reviewers across browser and reader types.
-A platform for connecting collections, exhibition, programs, publications across sections (see: https://mcachicago.org/Who-We-Are/Artists/Jason-Lazarus and https://mcachicago.org/Exhibitions/2015/The-Freedom-Principle-Experiments-In-Art-And-Music-1965-To-Now).
The site has been built almost entirely on open-source technology using a combination of contract and in-house resources, and is maintained by the museum’s digital media team. The CMS is a custom Ruby on Rails web app, using mongoDB, elastic search, memcache, and an nginx server.