The country that boasts cutting-edge technical prowess and the most museums per capita has unveiled a website that puts both strengths together: The big, beautiful Museums in Israel national portal launched at the beginning of June in Hebrew, English and Arabic.
The project, touted as the first of its kind to showcase Israel’s preservation of culture and heritage in the digital age, is a joint venture of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Prime Minister’s Office-Heritage Division and more than 50 of Israel’s museums. The ministry and the PMO each contributed half of the NIS 18 million invested in planning and building the website over the past four years.
The new dynamic gateway allows for quick access from any computer or smart device to information and high-resolution photos of thousands of items in Israeli museum collections, including pieces not currently on display. The items are grouped in the categories of Art; Judaica; History; Archaeology; World Cultures; Nature and Science.
The website also provides access to millions of entries in “Europeana,” the European digital cultural library featuring advanced research tools.
The Culture Ministry will maintain and update Museums in Israel, as well its 15-year-old website ilmuseums.com, which provides basic information on 232 museums in Hebrew, English and Russian.
The new site, to which more museums will be added gradually, is designed not only to display details such as opening hours, but to visually entice people – especially young people — to come and visit, says Michal Nachmias Adar, project coordinator in the PMO Heritage Division.
She tells ISRAEL21c that her overall job is to make “intangible” heritage treasures in Israel publicly accessible, meaning anything that’s not a building. That includes the national archives as well as museum collections, and eventually the two will be linked online.
Adar says she is proud of the cooperative blue-and-white effort that went into the website, from initial concept to software engineering to graphic and web design to photography.
Professional photographers from across Israel fanned out to participating museums to shoot up to 10 pictures of each chosen item so that viewers can rotate three-dimensional objects digitally. Users can also compare items from different collections and/or museums, print PDFs and share information and images on social media.
Museum, item, exhibition
“It was not a simple mission technologically to unify all the catalogues. The museums each had to work with our special system,” says Adar.
She points out that the participating museums had to accept a different way of thinking about how to lure visitors.
“Traditionally, museums didn’t want to reveal too much of their collections online, assuming people would not come if they could see the objects virtually. The new concept is that showing the items is what will attract them.”
The portal is searchable by museum, item or exhibition.
The museum section presents museum pages listing general and specific details regarding each one’s purpose, activities, opening hours, contact and travel information (including a map) and a selected assortment of photos. You can filter to find a museum based on area of specialization or region.
The items section displays high-resolution photographs of hundreds of thousands of items chosen from various museums’ collections, along with information about the artist/creator, period, style, history and technique. Some are iconic, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book. Others have never enjoyed wide exposure before.
The exhibitions section offers sample works and catalogues from current shows, as well as from past exhibitions. Surfers can locate an exhibition using search tools and filters based on criteria such as museum, field, range of dates, exhibition name and curator.
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