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Organizing ArtBabble

The approaching New Year is bringing great and exciting changes at the IMA. In the Publishing and Media department, we are working towards an update of our much heralded art video site, ArtBabble.

After receiving praise from the New York Times in September for its easy-to-use interface and wealth of content, we are planning to build upon our success and make ArtBabble even better. Since its 2009 inception, ArtBabble has garnered an exceptional roster of partners from around the world and is currently host to over 1,200 videos from not only the IMA, but other prestigious institutions like the Smithsonian, the Met, MoMA, LACMA, and the National Gallery of Art. Thanks to one of our newest partners, Museo del Prado in Madrid, content is now also available in Spanish. So how can we make ArtBabble, an already amazing resource, even better? As a Masters of Library Science student at IU Bloomington, I can tell you my answer: organize, organize, organize!

I’ve been working with the Publishing and Media department, with lots of help from IMA Lab and the Stout Reference Library, in hope of devising a new and even more user-friendly interface and means of organization. I’m attempting to use my knowledge of categorizing and indexing in order to better present ArtBabble’s content and want to share with you a little of the research I’ve being doing so far this semester.

ArtBabble is unlike any other art resource on the web, therefore, we have to devise a system almost from scratch. Our videos cover a broad range of topics and types, like artist interviews, performances, lectures and behind-the-scenes installation. It is a huge challenge to construct a system of organization that will remain effective as ArtBabble continues to grow. I consulted sites of other respected institutions like SmartHistory and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to draw ideas from how they organize their content and collections and present them for browsing online.


I also researched implementing a structure of categorization that draws from the Library of Congress art classification system. I used this system to create a list of controlled vocabulary terms to tag videos in a more efficient manner. Currently, ArtBabble’s channels are organized into an alphabetical list of tags from the videos.

While this is effective for a small group of tags, with the growing amount of content being uploaded will come a growing list of tags and classifications for the videos. This is not an effective way of organizing content when it comes to facilitating user browsing. This list becomes longer as ArtBabble grows, and without proper indexing users have an increasingly hard time finding related subject matter. Think about it… What if a library was organized simply alphabetically, rather than by the content of the books?

As we look to the future and think about growth, we have been brainstorming and researching the ways in which users could conduct their searches and browse our content. Would they want to browse by artist? Material? Geographic location? Time period? Video theme? All of these things at once? These are the questions we have been asking ourselves in order to devise the best system possible for easy searching and browsing. It is obvious that ArtBabble is a valuable education tool, so we want our new categorization to cater to both scholars and casual users. By implementing a better system for organizing our content, we hope to supply you the user with an even better ArtBabble.

Do you have suggestions for what you think would be a good way of reorganizing ArtBabble? Let us know!

Filed under: New Media, Technology

3 Responses to “Organizing ArtBabble”

  • avatar
    Maureen Says:

    I’ve visited and used ArtBabble often, and frequently refer others to the site.

    There are several projects at the Smithsonian in which site users have been enlisted to help identify and define tags. What such an effort does is give insight into how ordinary people search, what terms they typically use, where they go after they’ve gotten to a page, etc.

    I definitely want on an art-related site the capability to search by artist (and within that, bio, interviews, critical articles, and the like), collections, exhibitions, techniques, tools, materials, geographic region, art movement, style, time period, medium, and so on (the more the better). I also like to see all such search categories cross-referenced, so that once you land on a page, you may continue into areas that might not have occurred to you, but that are recommended to further enhance your understanding of artist and work. And always, always, be sure to provide a home button to hit to go back to your starting place.

    Whatever you decide to do, please keep it intuitive and clean. Symbols can be helpful but only if they’re intuitive (understood at a glance) and don’t add clutter to a page.

    One final thought: It’s also great when search terms translate from one site to another; i.e., have universality. People do not want to have to learn a vocabulary that no one else uses.

  • avatar
    Jessica Says:

    Good insights into this process! I am looking forward to a new organizational system, and hope your post generates constructive feedback and direction.

    I like the idea of organizing content into larger categories (such as Contemporary Art, African Art, Design Arts etc.) with sub categories (under Contemporary for example: Abstract Expressionism, Street Art, Pop Art…)for ease of use and content organization. Videos could fit into multiple relevant categories, and would not have to be limited to one.

    Good Luck!

    P.S. I appreciate that content is now available in Spanish on Art Babble

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