Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Ash Wednesday E-Pilgrimmage

The destination of this e-pillgrimmage is the Vatican Museums Online, which is a very neat site overall. The site is structured in such a way that you see the outlines of the Vatican buildings and can take tours via replications of the Vatican's actual physical space (see above.) You can also select the various Vatican museums by their name (e.g. the Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Rooms, etc.)

The collection itself is not terribly large, but is very well curated. Each object contains information about the religious meaning behind the art and links to relevant scripture. Overall, the Vatican's selection criteria seems to have been reproducing an actual physical tour of the grounds; thus, small images of each wall (and certain famous ceilings where appropriate) are included, but one cannot zoom in for larger images of all sections. Certain particularly famous sections, however, may be specifically selected and then blown up into a larger image/applet allowing zoom and rotating features.

I did not find the digital objects themselves to be all they could have been. While only selecting parts of larger paintings to blow up into the applet is fine, I would have liked the original image file to have been a bit larger. Also, the applets took a really long time to load, though the zoom feature was nice.

The Vatican's use of metadata also left a little to be desired. On the page with the object itself, you really only get the title, physical location, rough dates (the dates refer to the construction of the rooms housing the objects) and related religious information. In the preceeding page, when you enter the digital representation of the phsysical room, you get a blurb about the creator (not to be confused with The Creator, Who is eminently present throughout the site), but it would have been nice to have that info with the object itself.

The intended audience appears to be the public. The information provided is not deep enough to be geared towards experts, nor are the sizes of the images large enough for serious art study. Also, there is a distinct prosletyzing feel to the display, so I would imagine that the site, as one might expect from the Holy See, is geared towards the flock of Catholics and potential Catholics (ie the rest of the world's population.)

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