I love museums and galleries! I love Open Source! I love Drupal! Why not weave them all together into a single, harmonious blog post, I thought…. Well, fortunately, I’m not the first to dream up this beautiful convergence. Back in the early 00's, when I was working on the redesign of ltmuseum.co.uk, open source was firmly on the agenda across the cultural sector in the UK, even if The White House had yet to give its stamp of approval to open source technologies in general and Drupal development in particular.
The fact is, folks in museums and galleries could clearly see the value of open source. Museums, galleries, libraries, and archives led the digitization and digital collections charge from the beginning. All have reams of great content, and a shared desire to make it freely available. This open access focus still aligns perfectly with the ethos of the open source movement (lately taken up by government in the move toward open data - see for example: data.gov, data.gov.uk, data.gc.ca).
Cultural organizations need to be both efficient and agile, so naturally, they would rather save on software license fees and concentrate instead on delivering great multichannel experiences for visitors and users. Smart museums and galleries are re-using what the open source community has already built, reducing development time and cost, and only customizing where they need to. They’ve learned that open source means flexibility too, so that they can take advantage of cutting edge digital trends more quickly and cheaply than organizations tethered to the feature development roadmaps of proprietary software vendors.
A common theme runs through the adoption of Drupal and open source in museums and galleries (and in organizations across many other verticals): cumbersome legacy systems are expensive to maintain, aren’t flexible, and don’t scale to meet the needs of evolving and expanding organizations on tight budgets.
Drupal, combined with other open source technologies, offers flexibility and scalability, and enables in-house teams to gain much closer control of their digital content management infrastructure. They can add features incrementally and as and when the need arises. Of course, the developer community can also boast of its ability to integrate Drupal with top Digital Asset Management Systems like CollectiveAccess, Adlib, and Fedora - and with powerful open source ECM platforms like Alfresco. If a module to connect your DAMS with Drupal doesn't exist yet, you can always hire a local Drupal developer to write one, or consider open source middleware like MuleSoft - it's all about making connections easier. For a more detailed account of the migration process that the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) followed as they migrated from SiteCore to Drupal, check out this fascinating article by Alexander & Krause (2013).
CMA certainly isn’t alone - take a look at some of the other great museums and galleries harnessing the power of Drupal!
Arguably the world's most famous museum, or at least the most famous one of my childhood brain, The Louvre is The White House of museums. Drupal powers its tremendous breadth of digital collections and delivers a rich digital content experience - almost as good as a visit, but go anyway!
The Tate group of London museums is an awe-inspring monument, both separately and together, and the website mirrors the clear, uncluttered, elegant sign-posting of the visitor experience. I love getting emersed in the digital collections, and a great way to wander through them is via the exposed facetted search filters, which remind me of browsing in a great library full of chance encounters with amazing objects.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
If you think using Drupal as a front-end means limited design options, locked into a few set templates, think again. I love the full width image carousel on the home page - almost feels like I'm stepping inside the museum! And the wonderful detail images of the selected masterpieces on digital display make me want to book a flight to Boston right now!
Museum of Vancouver
This is such an inviting website, with a dynamic colour palatte. My favourite part is the simplicity and usability of the OpenMOV collections database - a giant leap forward from interfaces that look like they belong on the front of collections databases! An example to be emulated.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The CMHR chose to integrate Drupal with Alfresco as a back-end digital asset repository. As with all well-implemented tech, the integration is invisible, leaving you to focus on the great stories of human rights struggle and commitment the museum is there to showcase. Drupal delivers a rich, multilingual, digital experience featuring an inspiring mix of image, sound, and video designed to bring the events, places, and people to life. The museum isn't open to the public yet, but I'm already planning my visit!