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Press Room


Smithsonian American Art Museum Debuts New Web Site

Contact: Smithsonian American Art Museum's Public Affairs Office AmericanArtinfo[at]
American Art's Web site:
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution, announces the debut of its new web site at First launched in 1995, the award-winning Smithsonian American Art Museum web site has been fully redesigned to accommodate the museum's continuing growth as a major presence in online research and education.

"We're very excited about the possibilities the new site offers to our cyberaudience," said Smithsonian American Art Museum director Elizabeth Broun. "We serve an enormous range of people online, from those with a casual interest in art to educators and scholars, and this new site provides all of them a bigger and better resource."

More than three thousand digital images from the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection are available through the museum's site, linked to a new collection information database. The site is also home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's online art reference librarian, who handles nearly seven thousand queries about American art each year from adults and students of all ages.

The museum's web site is used increasingly by educators as a K–12 classroom resource. ¡del Corazón!—a bilingual Web 'zine enhanced by songs, stories, and video clips—is based on the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection of art by Latinos. The Smithsonian American Art Museum's web resources are a key component of A Community Discovered,a multi-year program involving six Nebraska school districts and integrating art and technology into all core subjects. "We're developing a rich resource base available to any educator with access to the internet," said Sherwood Dowling, project director for the New Media Learning Environment. "The Smithsonian American Art Museum's reach was once largely limited to those visiting the museum's buildings. The internet allows the museum to be truly global."

Fourteen virtual exhibitions offer the online visitor rewards unavailable to the museum-goer. American Photographs includes a video tour by curator Merry Foresta and audio commentary by other scholars. The Renwick at Twenty-Five allows viewers to rotate modern craft objects using a QTVR video plug-in. Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York features clips from early twentieth-century film footage of New York City. "Virtual exhibitions not only parallel 'real' ones, but they also stand on their own," said Thornton Staples, Smithsonian American Art Museum's former chief of information technology. "The web site delivers information beyond what is in the exhibition itself and invites us to follow our intellectual curiosity."

Eyeing America: Robert Cottingham Prints, a groundbreaking virtual exhibition on the new site, complements the Smithsonian American Art Museum show that was on view through January 31 and marks the first time a contemporary artist and a major museum have collaborated to create an online solo retrospective. A section, In the Museum, allows visitors to see the pop-influenced images that appear in the actual museum exhibition. Another section, On the Road, includes video clips of Cottingham discussing particular works, and traces his cross-country journey documenting the American urban landscape.

Viewers also have easy access to extensive research databases, including the Inventory of Painting and Sculpture, where they can find over 360,000 records about American artwork.

The new site's design is more user-friendly, with a structure that is easier for viewers to navigate, a rollover function that elaborates user options, a calendar updated daily, and better member services, including online registration for museum membership and events. "It's a good framework for growth," said Jeff Gates, head of new media initiatives. "This site will become more and more integral to the way the museum operates."

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has long embraced technology as a means of sharing its resources on a global level with teachers, students, art lovers, and the general public, beginning in 1976 with the Computerized Inventory of American Paintings. PC Magazine named the museum's first web site one of the top one hundred in the world in 1996. That same year the Smithsonian American Art Museum introduced its CD-ROM, which won a 1997 Milia international multimedia award in Cannes, France.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's online presence becomes increasingly meaningful as the museum nears a major renovation, scheduled to begin in January 2000, of the Old Patent Office Building, its historic home. The Smithsonian American Art Museum's influence will continue to extend beyond Washington, D.C., through its web site and through eight major traveling exhibitions that will showcase almost six hundred masterworks from the permanent collection.

For Further Information

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's first federal art collection, is located in the historic Old Patent Office Building at Eighth and G Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C., above the Gallery Place Metrorail station. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily and closed December 25. Admission is free. For recorded Smithsonian American Art Museum information, please call (202)633-8998; for Smithsonian information, please call (202)357-2700; (202)357-4522 (TTY); or (202)633-9126 (Spanish).