26 July 2013
The South Australian Museum has undergone a digital makeover as it prepares to beam its research and collections to the world in clearer, more exciting and more engaging ways than ever.
After months of detailed planning, the Museum has this week launched a new website showcasing the best of this North Terrace institution.
Project Lead and Museum Branding & Digital Strategy Manager Angie Hua says the new site is easier to navigate and much more user-friendly.
“The site was designed from a user experience perspective; we did some research and found out who was using our site, and what they were looking for. From there we simplified the navigation, introduced lots of beautiful imagery to illustrate the stories, and re-wrote almost the entire site.
“We are an educational institution, and our website has to reflect the huge amount of scientific information and resources we hold here, so that we can share it with the community more effectively.”
Staff, students and volunteers work together every day to make new scientific discoveries. Collection Managers care for precious specimens and artefacts, designers and technical staff create and maintain beautiful galleries, and education staff share the enthralling stories of science with children. Almost every day something new is donated, acquired, discovered or built that the Museum wishes to communicate. The new web site provides an exciting contemporary platform for us to achieve this.
A launchpad for effective science communication
The Museum aims to be one of the best examples of science communication in Australia. As our researchers undertake a wealth of projects to understand and document the world, the importance of their discoveries is validated when the public accesses and learns from them.
The new website provides easy navigation to different areas of the Museum’s collections and research.
Stories from our collections and research projects are illustrated with imagery, helping audiences share our excitement and passion about novel discovery.
Museum Acting Director Professor Andrew Lowe says the new site will help build appreciation for our amazing research around the world.
“Our scientists are world leaders in their fields and highly respected for the research they carry out here at our North Terrace premises. The new website includes up-to-date information and images that bring science closer to the people.
“We know from regular feedback that the community loves to engage with science and are hungry for information. People are inspired and delighted with what our scientists can show them about the world and how things work. If we can provide a system that allows them to learn in ways that are entertaining and accessible, then we are fulfilling our roles as a guardian of knowledge, a centre of innovation and discovery, and a public educator.”
Our scientists love to share their work. The Museum supports the wide circulation of the discoveries and achievements of our top researchers, as well as accessible connections between the public and our staff. Science is for the community and we will employ the latest technology to help young minds enjoy the best of the natural and physical sciences.
Head of Biological Sciences, Associate Professor Ian Whittington helped to collate and distill much of the scientific content on the site. “Scientists at the Museum have always been a part of the academic tradition of contributing scholarly chapters, books and articles about the discoveries we make, and the interpretation of artefacts and objects we study. Our new web site provides us with the flexibility to promote what we do more generally and more dynamically. Where possible, we aim to link accessible overviews of our recent and current research to the published papers, reports, external web sites and additional information such as images, narratives about objects, more in-depth coverage and videos.”
It also offers the opportunity to portray the sheer size, scale and diversity of the many rich collections that the Museum curates and from which our scientists derive much of their data.
“It’s the galleries, exhibitions, community programs and Information Centre that most visitors are aware of. But the Science Centre behind the Museum is where most of our scientists and collection managers work, with two or three off-site facilities that house other artefacts and specimens that require more space. Via the web site, we’ve tried to indicate the extent of our collections in terms of numbers of items, their uniqueness and show images to capture their scale,” said Professor Whittington.
A vibrant and engaging educational resource
Over 33,000 school children visit the Museum each year. The new website allows educators to access each gallery and view the Australian Curriculum-based programs that are offered for each year level.
“It also provides educators with resource materials and links that they can use in their classrooms. The new site gives educators the opportunity to book a school visit online,” says Karen Hogan, Education Manager at the South Australian Museum.
“A link for students has also been created allowing Secondary students to source support for their Research Projects and to access the Education Team and scientists based at the Museum for specialist information about our research and collections.”
A learning hub for remote residents
The Museum has travelled over 45,000km in South Australia since 2003, taking Museum collections and experts from its North Terrace premises all over the State. We want those who are unable to visit us in the city to experience the same benefits of our research and collections as those who wander our galleries and meet our staff. The website offers an interactive experience for people all over the world.
The Museum regularly receives correspondence from both website visitors and scientific researchers who benefit from keeping up-to-date with our activities online.
The image-rich site features online bookings to some of the Museum’s most popular programs and an online donation form for the first time in the Museum’s history.
It also allows more of a dialogue between visitors and staff, with enquiry forms going directly to the respective area.
The responsive nature of the site means that it will still be user-friendly on a tablet or smartphone, not just a desktop computer.
An evolutionary site
This is phase one of the South Australian Museum website. Phase two includes more advanced features to showcase our digitised collections. This better preserves the vital knowledge that can be obtained from our items and increases the impact of our research around the world. Aboriginal descendants will have greater access to the history of their cultures and scientists will be able to see the millions of items we hold without actually visiting the institution.
Stay tuned as the Museum undergoes a digital revolution to share our love of science!