We went live with the new BETA version of the Culture24 website today which has replaced the original 24 Hour Museum site forever … so long, farewell auf wiedersehen, goodbye …
The experience is both electrifying and terrifying and has been the result of a very intense six months of hard work by the new Culture24 team, preceded by at least of year of thinking, planning and fundraising, preceded by eight years of learning on the job with the old site.
Like all BETA sites, it is not finished, in fact it has just begun, but it is already better than its predecessor. Ironically most of the content on the new BETA site is the same as the old 24 Hour Museum (with the exception of the editorial in the new Teachers section) but the difference is in the way that it is displayed and categorised. It is like building a new gallery for your old collection that you used to only be able to find by rummaging around in a storeroom.
The new site brings our content forwards and shows it off. Stuff is grouped by subject or region and you can drill down into your area of interest to a deep level. The search is faceted like ebay, so in the same way as on ebay a search for ‘shoes’ offers you a breakdown by size, colour, make etc, a search on the new site for ‘trains’ gives you a breakdown by subjects, region, curriculum, and time.
This means that you can explore the different articles, venues, events, resources and websites by switching on and off these different facets. Very cool and very useful. It means you can sort through the thousands of venues, listings and articles to find things that suit your interests. Of course, anyone who knows anything about databases knows that this only works if things are well classified and that is what this next few months of testing is all about.
The clever stuff behind the scenes that makes it all work is largely credit to my colleague Anra Kennedy who sorted out all the classification issues, writing bridging taxonomies between the kind of worlds people use to search (our navigation) and the formal classifications such as curriculum, artists names etc.
Plus of course the very talented Sacha Varma at SSL who has built the database and publishing system. And the really, really clever bit is that the taxonomy has been built as a living thing that we can change, update, refine as we learn to live with the site.
The plans we have for the site are ambitious. We want to get it known and we want to broker the data behind the site with new partners, both inside and outside the sector. We also want to share our experience about what works and what doesn’t with others.
This is the best moment in any project, the calm before the storm – and I know that there will be lots of stuff over the next few months that is bound to go wrong and need fixing. But right now, everyone at Culture24 is really proud of what we have done and rightly so I think.