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Featured Museum Site

May, 1999

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
The NMWA fills an important role in the museum community: promoting awareness of the contributions of women to fine art through the centuries. Their online collection ranges from 16th-century painter Lavinia Fontana to the relatively young Brazilian sculptor Frida Baranek.
Women have had to overcome many obstacles in this field - being discouraged or actively prevented from entering the field, having to subordinate their careers to those of their spouses, being limited to apprentice positions, even sexual exploitation by mentors.
But some of their greatest setbacks came at the hands of art historians. Women artists have consistently been relegated to second-class status, and until recently any element of femininity in style or subject matter was enough to label a work as inconsequential.
It's nothing new to say that many museum collections are noticeably one-dimensional - in terms of works by women, and also in terms of stylistic and cultural diversity. If it wasn't for museums like the NMWA, the Artcyclopedia would be a much more boring and less relevant site than it is.
So much for the theory. What is their site really like? They have put a broad selection online, and have put a special effort into adding biographical details of many artists. Much of the text is footnoted, which is a nice touch, and there are lots of boxed quotes to lighten up the page. The reproductions are good, if a little small. The navigation is clear. The overall look is very professional.
There are a couple of comments about the images I have to make, though. First of all, they feel they have the right to stamp "National Museum of Women in the Arts" prominently on most of the pictures on their site. I disagree with this strongly. As custodians, their duty is to protect artwork, not deface it.
Second, the pictures are at least twice as big, in bytes, as they need to be. Even thumbnails run 25-50K, and though the detail images are of fairly small dimensions, many are over 100K bytes. One was almost 350K! It's as if they created all their JPG images with the "compression" option set to 0%.
But they've put their heart and soul into this, and it shows. Overall, it's one of the better museum sites and well worth a visit.

Previous Featured Museums
  April, 1999: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
  March, 1999: The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
  February, 1999: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia