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Yale University Art Gallery

Reimagined website and online collection

New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Yale University Art Gallery, founded in 1832, is the oldest university art museum in the United States.

Its exceptional collection contains nearly 300,000 objects from all over the world and across time. The museum is open to all, free of charge, and is committed to engaging audiences through thoughtful, creative, and relevant exhibitions, programs, and publications.

Launching on March 20th 2023, Cogapp has designed and built a new website, including a robust and fully-featured online collection, to serve the Gallery and its audiences, existing and future, for many years to come.

“The new Gallery website is a breath of fresh air”
Director of Communications, Yale University Art Gallery

Building a better online world for audiences

Yale University Art Gallery’s previous website was bursting at the seams with overwhelming navigation options and sprawling content. The site made no accommodation for use on mobile devices, making usability on smaller screens very challenging. The Gallery needed an accessible, responsive website to inspire its visitors, both in person and online.

The goal of the website project was to spark curiosity and extend the Gallery’s reach. The redesign delivers a modern, comprehensive online experience with the collection at its core.

The site’s content has been reorganised as part of an information architecture (IA) redesign which involved stakeholders from all departments at the Gallery. We iterated upon initial designs after tree testing with online visitors to the Gallery website, resulting in a much clearer, user-centred navigation for the website.

A screenshot of the new Yale University Art Gallery homepage, showing the site navigation and a promotional block for a current exhibition.
The new homepage showing rich imagery for current exhibitions and a simple, intuitive navigation.

The site is as usable and beautiful on mobile as it is on desktop. The collection objects are given white-glove treatment, with rich metadata clearly and consistently displayed, with deep-zoom imagery and ‘always in view’ artworks on larger screens.

Collection highlights for each curatorial area offer the exploration and discovery of the finest objects in the vast collection. Detailed metadata allows for journeys through the collection via medium, artist, period and subject.

Four mobile screens showing details of artworks in the collection.
Exploring highlights from the collection on mobile.

The Gallery’s vivid publications and engaging events can be explored by search and browse, and its exhibition history is rich with installation images and featured objects.

Audiences such as students, faculty, researchers and the public have all the information they could need, arranged in a simple navigation structure with clear, intuitive menus.

The visual design of the site takes into consideration all audiences the Gallery wishes to reach. The font and layouts have been designed to couple clear and functional usability with graceful and beautiful brand application.

A stacked grid of Yale University Art Gallery's logo in four colours, blue, orange, green and red.
Colourised logo that responds to the section of the site being viewed.

Building a better online world for Yale University Art Gallery

The Gallery’s vision is:

Orange text which reads: Activating the power of art to inspire and to create a more inclusive world.

The new website keeps the collection at the centre of the experience.

The online collection of more than 183,000 objects is managed and maintained in the Gallery’s existing collections management system, TMS.

Curators, registrars and conservators continue to use their tried and tested object management workflow. All edits, additions and retractions that are made in TMS are automatically synchronised with the collection search index for publication to the website.

The new online collection surfaces all the images and data the Gallery wishes to publish online, while maintaining the integrity, security and privacy of the internal collections management system.

Collection features, for applicable objects, include:

  • Downloadable open-access images

  • Multiple images showing different angles and details

  • Deep-zoom powered by IIIF

  • Useful descriptions and in-depth metadata

  • IIIF manifest file

  • Option to open image in Mirador viewer

  • Linked Art data record.

These tools all allow the Gallery to provide the most in-detail and engaging experience possible of their art online.

A Solr search index houses a copy of the collection, updated daily, which the website queries to power the fast and robust collection search. The site-wide search also displays results from the collection, clearly demarcated to users. 

The collection objects can be easily featured on the content-managed website pages. Selected facets of the collection, such as highlights and curatorial departments, are populated automatically, using simple rules defined by content editors. 

Three screenshots: of the collection landing page, a collection object with its metadata and a zoomed in view of the the collection object.
The collection landing page, object metadata and IIIF viewer.

Managing content in the new content management system (CMS) is greatly simplified. There are a discrete number of page templates, all with reusable paragraph types in Drupal 9.

The content editors at the museum can create webforms, link content, select facets of the collection to display on other pages, and update all editable content without relying on any developer time or code updates.

All listings pages, such as the Calendar of events, the Publications section and the Press Room are automatically populated with the latest content. The Homepage makes it easy to feature fresh content to keep it feeling dynamic, as well as automatically updating opening hours and what’s on at the Gallery.

Green text reading 'Discover details about more than 180,000 works of art'

Creating an environment where everyone can do their best work

Cogapp’s tried and tested Agile methodology gave a familiar rhythm to the project for the development team.

We had daily stand-up meetings to ensure that each member of the Cogapp team was fully supported to achieve their goals, and weekly check in with the Yale team, at a minimum.

To keep everyone at the museum up-to-date with the process, we held Sprint Demos via Zoom at the end of each two-week sprint.

During these demos, each individual member of the Cogapp team would demonstrate the work they had completed during the previous two weeks and the team at the Gallery were encouraged to give feedback and ask questions. We recorded the demos and used shared collaborative tools such as Figma for design, and Pivotal Tracker for project management.

The transatlantic team worked collaboratively to prioritise features for the launch, with design feedback and input gleaned from senior stakeholders across the Gallery. Post-covid conditions at the start of the project prevented a Discovery visit by the team. However, due to a fortunate alignment of travel schedules, our Project Director enjoyed visiting the Gallery mid-way through the project and experienced the beautiful architecture and exhibitions first hand.

The launch is just the beginning for the new website. We are excited to continue to work closely with the team at the Gallery to enhance the solid foundations laid by this project, and keep pushing the new website to further activate the power of the Gallery’s art.

Yale University Art Gallery's website


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