Alex Wright

Smithsonian Photo Initiative

August 27, 2006

The Smithsonian has launched its new Smithsonian Photo Initiative, featuring a collection of 1800 images by 100 photographers gathered together in an online exhibit called "Enter the Frame," with an experimental interface that's heavy on tags and light on conventional menus.

Enter the Frame

After playing around with it for a few minutes, my overall reaction is: well, it's certainly interesting, but is it useful? The tag interface seems to be a moving target, showing users a floating snapshot of tags pulled seemingly at random. But there's no way to simply browse the contents of the collection - or even to browse the tags in any predictable way.

While I'm all in favor of experimental interfaces, this seems more like an art project trying to prove a point than a software application that anyone would actually want to use. Still, it's a step in the right direction - and one can only hope the Smithsonian will continue to explore new ways of opening up its collections online.

File under: User Experience

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