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Featured Museum Site

September, 1999

The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
I'll say this up front: the Butler Institute of American Art isn't the fanciest site on the Net. Their home page forces me to scroll right in both Netscape and Internet Explorer. The ALT text on many of their images is pointlessly the name of the .gif or .jpg image file. The clip-art background makes the text unnecessarily hard to read. Graphics are sometimes resized using HEIGHT and WIDTH HTML tags, which never works well. There are at least 2 broken links on the front page ("Exhibitions" and "Just for the Web"). And the text is taken directly from a book (Master Paintings from the Butler Institute, now out of print). But I've visited dozens of times, and I find it one of the most enjoyable museum sites.
So what do they do right? To start with, the site isn't overcomplicated. For example, their address is prominently displayed on the front page. When I was putting together our big museum list, I can't tell you how many times it was almost impossible to figure out what city or even state a given museum was located in.
And if you click to the Collections area, there's a big artist list right there. No messing with frames or drilling down through multiple levels, e.g.: Collections -> Paintings -> American -> 19th Century.
The best thing about the Butler Institute, of course, is that there's a lot of high-quality art on display. There are about 150 artists represented, and the images are well-scanned, and about as big as you can them without forcing some people to scroll to see the entire work.
Finally, there's quite a bit of well-written text about the paintings. You can read about the artist, and get a quite detailed analysis of the technique and composition behind each picture. I find well-written commentary to be all too rare on museum sites, and this is one place where the Butler really stands out.

Previous Featured Museums
  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