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Hunterian Museum

A new website to support the reopening of one of London’s most historic Museums

London, UK

  • Showcases the Museum's unique collection of objects and specimens, increasing public awareness of the Hunterian and its rich history

  • Introduces new and updated branding to coincide with the Hunterian’s major redevelopment project

  • Provides a simple, intuitive content management system, allowing the Hunterian's editorial team to focus on content rather than technology

The Hunterian Museum, named after the 18th century surgeon and anatomist, John Hunter, is due to reopen in May 2023 following a five-year redevelopment of the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s headquarters at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London.

The £4.6 million Museum development includes the display of over 2,000 anatomical preparations from Hunter’s original collection, alongside instruments, equipment, models, paintings and archive material. The collection traces the history of surgery from ancient times to the latest robot-assisted operations. The Museum also includes England’s largest public display of human anatomy.

To coincide with the Museum’s reopening, Cogapp worked with the Hunterian to develop a new website which will support the museum through the next chapter in its long history.

Hunterian Museum homepage

Building a better online world for audiences


We kicked off the project with a discovery session at the Hunterian Museum in London. This in-person session provided a space for project stakeholders to expand upon their vision for the project and discuss the various requirements and needs of the museum at this critical moment in the organisation's history.

As with all of Cogapp's work, we believe it is important to consider the various audiences that will engage with the content online. Through collaborative sessions, we established different audience needs for the website and created personas to capture these needs. These personas ensured decision-making throughout the project considered everyone from tourists to academics, and informed how they would interact with the site.

In-person visits also gave us an opportunity to tour the new Museum itself. Of course, the Museum was still under construction but even as it was taking shape, it was easy to a sense of its rich history through the artefacts and items on display and how they were presented. This on-site experience ensured we designed and implemented the new website in such a way as to seamlessly complement the physical space.

Visual identity and design

A key component to the Hunterian Museum’s reopening is its updated branding. This included a new marque, and a colour scheme that has been designed to complement  both objects within the Museum's collection and the palette used in the galleries and the Royal College of Surgeons building.

The Hunterian Museum also provided us with a variety of strong visual assets to give the website a unique visual identity and feel:

  • A bespoke version of the eighteenth-century font Caslon that had been specially created for use by the Museum

  • Striking imagery developed from John Hunter's own sketches and work, which we were able to use in components across the site to bring sections to life

  • High resolution videos recently produced by the Museum onsite. These incredibly detailed films show some of the Museum's most interesting objects in close up, and were perfect for high impact areas like the homepage.

At the beginning of the project we used the branding guidelines to create a web style guide. This translated the new brand guidelines for use online, incorporating typographic scale, spacing and ensuring that styles reflected the highest accessibility standards.

Image showing three pages of the Hungarian style guide

Having the style guide in place early meant that we were able to use this as a simple point of reference to inform the rest of the project's design direction.

Hunterian mobile view examples
Animated gif showing changing colours on the website footer

Technical approach

An important aspect of the Hunterian Museum’s requirements was to have a simple, intuitive content management system that would allow the Museum to focus their time on content creation, instead of overcoming technical hurdles. 

We needed to create simple but visually inspiring components to showcase the Museum's wide range of content, such as videos, audio files and high definition imagery. The website and content management system needed to be robust and future-proof.

To support this requirement, we proposed the use of Craft CMS. Craft provides a lightweight platform which makes it easy for the Hunterian team to create and edit content, and upload and manage media assets.

Craft is flexible enough to incorporate the Museum’s branding whilst also ensuring that specific technical skills from the Museum team are not required to create and update content during what is an extremely busy and dynamic time for the organisation.

Cogapp worked with the Museum's team to establish a range of styled components that could easily be dropped into place or reordered to create striking pages which present the content as effectively and clearly as possible.

Engaging storytelling

During discovery, and throughout the project lifecycle, it became clear that incorporating high-resolution imagery as a means to drive narrative content on the site would be of huge benefit to the Museum. It was agreed that Cogapp's IIIF-powered storytelling platform, Storiiies, could add another dimension to the online experience.

The Hunterian has a rich collection of digital resources and by using Storiiies, the visitor is able to pan and zoom across any image and be led through annotations of specific points of interest.

This provides an accessible and engaging way of bringing the Museum’s rich content to life, all created by a simple to use drag-and-drop component within their CMS.

Hunterian website mobile navigation bar screenshot

Creating an environment where everyone can do their best work

The delivery of the website project needed to coincide with the Museum's reopening. Using our tried-and-tested Agile approach, we organised the project into several focussed two-week sprints. Each sprint consisted of an initial planning session with our team to create a backlog of priorities for the upcoming period. The project team would then meet each morning for a daily stand-up to share progress, plan ahead and check for impediments that could hamper progress.

In addition to the usual Zoom check-ins and emails, communication was also managed through Cogapp’s project management tool of choice, Pivotal Tracker. This allowed the Hunterian team to raise questions and requirements directly into our work backlog for us to review and prioritise accordingly. As we were also using Pivotal to communicate between the Cogapp team internally, it allowed the Museum team to have full visibility on our progress and provided a structured platform to contribute with timely feedback.

At the end of each two-week sprint, all project stakeholders were invited to a sprint demo, on Zoom, during which work was showcased and progress against the agreed sprint goals was gauged.

The Hunterian team was encouraged to provide feedback during these meetings to ensure that the work was progressing in line with the Museum’s vision for the website. At the end of the demo, we presented suggestions for goals for the next two week sprint and invited our colleagues at the Museum to feed back and agree on next steps.

The project reached its conclusion with a final delivery demonstration, again with all stakeholders from the Museum. We worked with the Hunterian’s IT team to agree a hosting arrangement to ensure the new site was in safe hands after launch.

We're so excited to see the new Museum open to the public and look forward to continuing to support the Hunterian the future.

Hunterian Museum website


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