This week, Modern Art Notes started a series on the ten most-accessed works of art across a handful of museums’ websites. Featured museums included SFMOMA, MOMA, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Inspired, we started digging through Google analytics to uncover the IMA’s most-accessed works of art. The wonderful thing about analytics is the ability to compare short and long term date ranges which provides an opportunity to look for trending. With these interests in mind, we went back to 2007 (when analytics tracking was implemented) and compared the top ten most-accessed works for each year since then.
One interesting thing we found is that the top ten lists (based on unique pageviews) for 2007, 2008, and 2009 are all very similar. While there was some movement within the lists as far as #1, #2, etc., the pieces that made the cut for these three years were all the same (with the exception of 1-2 variations each year). A noticeable shift happened in 2010 when different works started popping up on the list.
As it just so happens, we introduced a new website in early 2010 and one of the changes we made involved the collection section. We improved the search capabilities with the intent of allowing someone to find something specific with ease, while also creating an interface to support casual browsing. A month later, we also introduced a new tagging feature that made the collections search more interactive. Tagging features in general have changed the way people look for information as users can search based on input or classifications from other users - another possible reason for the shift in the top ten.
Even without these changes to the website, I would expect to see a change of sorts as technology improves and computer usage behavior changes. Online search habits have transformed (and will continue to do so) as people become more accustomed to search mechanisms and better in tune with the results a specific query will trigger. This is naturally going to change the results that are returned, thereby influencing the popularity of certain pages.
Over the past few years we’ve also become more active on social media sites, which may account for some of the changes seen pre and post 2010. Miss Lemon Drop (below) is just one example of this:
We tweeted about this piece back in February, (in response to MAN’s Swimsuit Issue), and it made its top 10 debut for the first time as #6 for 2011. Granted, our 2011 list only includes the past two months of data, but I think this does speak to the influence of social media and the way it allows us to share our collection with wider audiences. Search engines have also added social networks to their results pages, fueling the popularity of those pieces we feature on places like Twitter or Facebook. This, in turn, gives museums an opportunity to call attention to works that may not otherwise be seen amidst the collection blockbusters that are regularly searched for on a site.
Speaking of blockbusters – even with changes in search habits, social media, and our website, we did see two pieces that made the top ten lists in all five years:
Angel of Resurrection and Floor are clearly two popular pieces on our website peaking in popularity in 2009 at #1 and #4, respectively. Other works that made the list multiple times throughout the years include:
Below you can see a bit of the data we have gathered from this exercise. Starting with 2011, each graph lists the rank, title of the piece, and its change in rank from the previous year. From this you can see that Robert Indiana’s LOVE (1966) moved up one position from 2010 to 2011, or that Georgia O’Keefe’s Jimson Weed was not on the list in 2009, but made it to the top ten in 2010.