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Archives & Museum Informatics



The Website of the UK Museum of the Year, 1999

Jane Bowen, River & Rowing Museum, UK
Jonathan Bowen, South Bank University, UK

Session: Virtual Museums

The River & Rowing Museum celebrates the traditions and environment of the River Thames, the international sport of rowing and the historic riverside community of Henley-on-Thames in England. Spacious and state-of-the-art, the specially commissioned building was designed by the award winning British architect, David Chipperfield. The museum was opened in August 1998 and is already an architectural landmark. The museum has won a number of awards including the National Heritage UK Museum of the Year 1999, Building of the Year 1999 for England (shortlisted for the Stirling Prize) and Website of the Week for two weeks running in the 24 Hour Museum UK museums portal.

The website has been produced at minimal cost, but is simple and effective in design (matching the minimalist design of the museum building itself) and attracting over 65,000 visitors so far (more than have visited the physical museum). The website is organized in a simple hierarchical manner. The homepage is designed to present the museum in different ways for different categories of user such as general visitors, including the disabled, children, teachers, researchers, group visitors, museum supporters, event organizers, the press, etc.

The presentation will give a history of the development of the website, originally initiated in 1995 several years before the museum actually opened. This helped establish the museum's presence throughout the world, particularly to the rowing community. Plans for the future, especially how the website fits into the museum's marketing strategy, will also be covered. Attendees should gain tips on how to produce a cost-effective website that is designed to be user-oriented.

URL: (museum) (paper)