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Feature Archive

Featured Online Exhibits

March, 2000

The World Around Me
University of Lethbridge Art Gallery
The distinctive prints and sculptures made by Inuit artists of Canada's north are highly regarded and are widely collected. (Note that the term "Eskimo" is outmoded and considered somewhat insulting.)

The University of Lethbridge, located in Alberta, Canada, has built a huge and diverse online exhibit around its collection of Inuit art. Lots of images, lots of interpretive text, and a navigational system which lets you approach the art in a variety of ways - these are all things I love to find in an online exhibit.

The first menu item presented is the Inuit Collection Database. My preference is to simply use the alphabetical index of hundreds of artist names to browse the database, but there is also a "power search" panel allowing visitors to search by artist name, title of work, medium, or even community. Such capabilities are probably overkill, but if you are specifically looking for for soapstone sculptures from Repulse Bay, for example, this is a great place to start.

It's worth noting that images in the database are not set up as standard hyperlinks, but they are clickable nonetheless. The tiny thumbnail expands to a medium-sized image, and this image also expands to a fairly large detail image.

The database only contains basic information about each work, but there are two guided tours which offer much more insight into the art, and especially into the social context in which the art is created.

The first tour, The World Around Me, presents the art thematically: "Our First Wooden Home," "Our World," etc. It's a very appropriate way to introduce viewers to the art, and the text which accompanies most of the works is very well-written.

I do have two personal criticisms of the tour:
  1. The primary interface tries to simulate the experience of walking through a physical gallery - looking at the different "walls" of the exhibit and so on - which I don't think ever works well. It's optional, though: you can also choose to browse the exhibit in "linear" format, which simply brings up thumbnail images of all the works in each gallery.
  2. The artworks don't expand to the same size as they do in the database section of the exhibit. It's a shame that the wonderful text has to be accompanied by an undersized reproduction of the artwork.
The second tour, Active Inside the Igloo, is basically a continuation of the first. The exhibit is rounded out by teacher and student activities: there are several lesson plans, a quiz and a treasure hunt.

All in all, this is a very good educationally-oriented exhibit, and there's so much to see that I can pretty much guarantee that you'll never be able to take it all in.

Previous Featured Exhibits
  October, 1999: Monet: O Mestre do Impressionismo
  September, 1999: Trompe l'oeil: The Art of Deception
  August, 1999: PBS: American Visions
  July, 1999: Virtuo Official Magritte Site
  June, 1999: Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995
  May, 1999: Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs
  April, 1999: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe online with N.C. Wyeth's illustrations
  March, 1999: The Vincent van Gogh Information Gallery
  February, 1999: John Singleton Copley: Watson and the Shark