Friday, September 11, 2009

Peering into the ArtScope

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's ArtScope is a great example of an innovative approach to bringing a museum's collection to the Web. ArtScope is a visual browsing tool comprised of a thumbnail grid displaying 3,500 works from the SFMOMA's permanent collection. The grid is zoomable, displaying a lens which can be moved over it to magnify certain areas, enabling users to view hundreds of artworks simultaneously, or just one at a time in close detail. When you launch ArtScope, a set of controls and a search box are visible to the right hand side of the window. The controls help you zoom in and out, or zoom all the way out, though it's easier to double-click inside the lens to zoom in, and to double-click outside the lens to zoom out. You can also grab the grid and drag to move it around, exactly as you can with a map in Google Maps. Unfortunately, ArtScope doesn't support trackpad gestures or the scroll wheel for zooming, and the incremental zooming via double-clicking is tedious.