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Featured Museum Site

November, 1999

Musée du Louvre, Paris
The Louvre is one of the great museums of the world, and has probably been visited by more people than any other. It's good to see that it has a web site worth visiting as well.

I like to start with what a site does well, and the Louvre does a lot of things well. They have excellent scans of the artwork, and in most cases you can click through to a very large detail image. There is a lot of work online - at least a couple of hundred pieces. It's multilingual, being available in English, French, Spanish and Japanese (some sections, especially those requiring regular updates, are only available in French though). There is valuable interpretive text for almost all the artworks. From a North American point of view the site is fast and reliable, which is often not the case with European websites. And visually the site is very well designed.

That's a lot to do well. But there are a couple of things which could be better.

One is the overall site navigation. I can't find any kind of site map or search facility. To get to any of the actual art in the collections, you have to drill down 6 levels, which is kind of a lot, and not all the choices are obvious. Good luck if you're looking for one artist or work in particular.

Say you're looking for something by Van Dyck. Here's what you have to do from the home page:
  • Select "English"
  • Select "Collections"
  • Select "Paintings"
  • Select "Major Works"
  • Now you have to know the country and time period you are looking for. Flemish or Netherlandish? 16th century or 17th? Luckily everyone knows Van Dyck is a 17th-century Flemish painter.
  • Then we come to the thumbnails. If what you are looking for is here, click through to see the full-sized object. If not, back up a few levels and try another century, or the "Works on Paper" section perhaps.
In my judgment, if you're looking for works by a given artist, you're much better starting off at our Artcyclopedia site. As little as one step to get to the artist page, then one more to get to the exact museum page you're looking for. That's much more civilized.

One other issue is that the Louvre site uses frames. There are large frames along the top and the left side, which take up a lot of screen space. If you click through to the detailed view of one of those lovingly reproduced masterpieces, those frames will very likely cause you to have to scroll to see the full image. Not every surfer knows that there are ways to work around this:
  1. Netscape and Internet Explorer both allow you to suppress those huge toolbars at the top of the screen. This buys you a lot of screen space. The only thing I miss is the back-arrow, but you can duplicate that by using the Alt-Backarrow keyboard shortcut.
    In Netscape, click at the far left side of each toolbar to minimize (or restore) it. In Explorer, right-click along the top menu bar to select which toolbars should be dislayed.
  2. Both Netscape and Explorer allow you to right-click on any link and open it in a new window. In framed sites, this has the effect of removing extraneous frames. I use this all the the time. (Note that when you do this, sometimes links between frames don't work the way you think they will.)
  3. In Netscape, you can zoom in on any given image by right-clicking on it and selecting "View Image". I can't see a way to do this in Explorer.
Overall, though, this is one of the best online museum sites to be found. Don't miss it.

Musée du Louvre, Paris

Previous Featured Museums
  October, 1999: The North Carolina Museum of Art
  September, 1999: The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
  August, 1999: National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  July, 1999: Museum of Modern Art, New York
  June, 1999: Carol Gerten's Fine Art
  May, 1999: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
  April, 1999: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
  March, 1999: The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
  February, 1999: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia