National Museum of American History Launches Revamped Web Site

March 10, 2005
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has launched a revitalized Web site, at americanhistory.si.edu, with new features and an easier-to-use and more attractive interface. The new-and-improved site allows the museum's 10 million annual online visitors greater access to the collections through expanded content and accessibility. "The Web is an important tool for the museum to promote exhibitions, programs, research and collections," said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. "More importantly though, it is a way for us to fulfill our mission to tell the story of America and its many peoples to an audience beyond those who walk in our doors in Washington, D.C." The highlight of the new site is a section called "Timeline," which places hundreds of the museum's objects into a timeline ranging from 900 B.C. to the present. Visitors scroll through 10 historical eras and click on specific objects--for example, a 1959 Chicago Transit Authority "L" car. A window then opens to reveal a larger image, a brief description and history of the object, as well as links to other museum resources on the site with more information about that specific artifact, collection or exhibition. Users may also find listings for related public programs where the artifact or collection will be discussed or displayed. Among the site's other new features are:
  • A searchable collections database that brings information about the museum's treasures directly to the screen (of the museum's three million objects, only three-five percent are on display in exhibitions). As more of the collections are added to the Web site, this tool will allow visitors unprecedented access to the museum's collections
  • A section called "History in Your Home" that encourages visitors to share their own stories about everyday objects in the museum's collection
  • Children and educators sections that provide one-stop access to classroom resources, curriculum guides and online activities for kids, sortable by grade and resource type
  • A plan-your-visit feature that pools together information on everything from tours and exhibitions to food and shopping to ensure that visitors get the most out of their museum experience
Mediatrope, an award-winning interactive studio based in San Francisco, designed the Web site on a partially pro-bono basis. The 15-month-long development is the first major redesign of the museum's site in seven years. In that time the museum has hosted an estimated 35 million visitors on the Web alone. Many of the site's popular features remain, including "HistoryWired: A Few of Our Favorite Things," which launched in 2001. Visitors to "HistoryWired" explore a grid with squares of different sizes that represent featured objects. As the user moves the cursor across a square, a picture and a short description of an object pops up. The program asks users to rate their interest in the display they are currently viewing, and the higher an object's rating, the more space it receives on the grid. In addition, all of the museum's virtual exhibitions remain, including the award-winning sites for "September 11: Bearing Witness to History," "America on the Move," "Bon Appetit! Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian," "Within These Walls . . ." and "The Star Spangled Banner." About the National Museum of American History: The National Museum of American History traces American heritage through exhibitions of social, cultural, scientific and technological history. Collections are displayed in exhibitions that interpret the American experience from Colonial times to the present. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. For more information, visit our Web site at http://americanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000 or 357-1729 (TTY).

About Mediatrope LLC:
Mediatrope designs and builds award-winning interactive solutions, including Web sites, CD-ROMs, videos, and exhibits, for its clients in the arts, business and education. The company ensures the success of each project by integrating strategy, design, and engineering with a focus on usability. Clients include Hewlett-Packard, Clicquot Champagne, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Seattle Art Museum and IDEO. Mediatrope was founded in 1996 in San Francisco. For more information, see www.mediatrope.com.