A Website for Community Voices
When our curatorial department announced the idea of a community-curated exhibition, I was excited and daunted by the idea of creating a tool to facilitate voting and public engagement. Although my role at the Gibbes is to oversee the multitude of programs and events that take place throughout the year, I have a background in web-based museum projects and publications so I was excited to participate. The opportunity to create an interactive online feature gave me a thrill, but I knew there was a big task ahead of us. The Gibbes staff started defining the details of what artworks we wanted to present and what we hoped to learn about our collection from our community. The next step was to decide how we would distill these ideas into a People’s Choice website.
With a rough content outline, and a few website examples we liked, we started to think about who would build our website. We decided to partner with Blue Ion, a Charleston-based interactive marketing agency, and met with co-founder Robert Prioleau and his staff to define our goals and set parameters. We talked about the number of objects we would present, how people would vote and how many times they could, and what other features could encourage conversation. We scheduled weekly meetings, and for several months we continued to flesh out the elements of the website and focus the details.
The discussions during these meetings were exciting! We debated the pros and cons of sample WordPress themes, how social media platforms would be intertwined, and what other tools we could use to attract public attention to our project. One of my favorite ideas we tossed about resulted in the fabulous “Featured Voters” section, where notable Charlestonians share their thoughts on the importance of art and museums, and their memories about the impact of art on their lives. After six months of hard work, we ended up with a modern and engaging website, where visitors can peruse and vote on the 140 artworks from the Gibbes collection.
We launched the website on February 4, and have been rolling out Featured Voter profiles each week. Friday, March 1, marked the opening of community voting—this is where the rubber hits the road, and we will learn if our efforts have paid off. I can’t wait to see how people respond to the artworks, and which ones rise to the top as community favorites (see the Leader Board to the right for the current top 10). I hope that visitors will not only click to vote, but will contribute comments about their favorite works of art, and will spread the conversation via social media. Please stake your claim in the Gibbes Museum and participate in People’s Choice: A Community-Curated Exhibition!
—Lasley Steever, Director of Programs and Events
Image credit: Porch Party, Charleston, 2005, by Red Grooms (American, b. 1937). Gouache on paper; 40 3/4 x 30 inches. Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of the artist and Lysiane Lvong.