In class we were introduced to the Wayback machine an online archiving project that crawls the web and saves the data in what appears to be a PHP based data system for later retrieval. Using this amazing online tool (one could lose themselves for hours I discovered) I began to trace the birth and evolution of the Noguchi Museum website.
According to the information generated by the Wayback machine the initial crawling of sihgting of the Noguchi musuem website at www.noguchi.org website was in January of 1997. This information is consistent compared to what I could discover based upon the information provided in the online timeline of the museum.
The Noguchi Museum website has existed in five different iterations over the years since 1997. Beginning with the initial blue background of the original site and continuing to the java scripted and most recent versions, a clean and uncluttered look is a constant of the site. I believe in my class presentation I only mentioned four iterations of the site and upon further perusal review of the information provided by the Wayback machine I discovered another version of the site. This leads me to inform the reader there are five versions of the site to the best of my knowledge.
Screenshot of Noguchi Museum website circa 1997
Screenshot of Noguchi Museum website circa January 2005
Screenshot of Noguchi Museum website circa 2009
Screenshot of Noguhi Museum website taken June 10, 2012
In addition to changing stylistically over the years, the museum website has grown in the complexity and depth of the information available through the internet portal to the museum's resources. Whether this has always been beneficial or to the advantage of the museum patrons or others seeking information on Isamu Noguchi or the museum is of course up to each individual user. For those using web readers such as JAWS or other screen reader technologies, the newest versions of the website replete with Java scripts and a complex Catalogue raisonne which requires sign-in and registration, this might not be the case.
Some of the older versions of the site, while not as gorgeously designed, and limited by the available internet capabilities of the time, do provide a wide array of information on Noguchi's works and the museums holdings. For instance, The earliest iteration of the site, first detected and crawled in 1997, features downloadable PDF files on specific groupings of Noguchi's works. These include his theatrical set designs, unrealized and realized sculptural and large-scale architectural and installation-esque garden and playground works as well as histories of exhibitions and records of written works by the artist. By today's standards the interface and accesibility may seem clunky or archaic, however I found the simplicity and ease of access to the materials and the images of the works by Noguchi refreshing. In fact it seems as though more detailed information was available to any visitor to the Noguchi Museum website in the late 1990's and early 2000's than today in 2012.
Page linking to downloadable PDF files of Noguchi's work
Research and resources|Noguchi Museum website circa 1997
Image of unrealized earth sculpture The Plough by Isamu Noguchi
Image of model for unrealized earth sculpture "Play Mountain" Isamu Noguchi
Much of the information available through the late 1990's Research and References section of the Noguchi Museum website is now in the purview of the online Catalogue raisonne. While the catalogue is a remarkable project I wonder what the newly integrated log-in interface does to attract and promote the free access and democratic use of information which is so highly attractive to intellectuals and museum and library professionals today.
Stylistically the website gradually moves towards larger images and more marginalized text on the main page as the site evolves. This is partially I am sure to the changes and improvements in website programming technologies, advances in web browsers and the perceived want of visitors and the public. And, while the site is perhaps not 100% friendly to those of us not using the most recent versions of Chrome or Firefox, the usability as discussed in the Usability, accesability section of the Noguchi Museum Project is not horrible.
I also found it very interesting following my visit to the museum on two separate occasions, how the museum website and the museum visiting experience are very similar. The current nearly didactic free state of the galleries is very similar to the lack of substantive information provided on the websites main pages. Also, while at the museum on can view an extensive video of Noguchi's life and career - again mirroring the online user's need to dig deep and delve deeper for serious material about the artist or his works on the museum website as well.