National Maritime Museum Wins First Jodi Mattes Access Award

By David Prudames | 20 May 2003
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Shows the National Maritime Museum website.

Left: the National Maritime Museum website was relaunched in 2002.

The National Maritime Museum website has been announced as the first winner of the Jodi Mattes Access Award.

Organised by the Museums Computer Group (MCG), the award recognises museum, gallery and heritage websites that have emphasised principles of access for their design, navigation and content.

Beating off competition from the likes of the National Gallery and Tate, the Greenwich-based museum was announced as the winner at the RNIB/English Heritage organised Talking Images Conference at Eltham Palace.

The judges, representing the Museums and Galleries Disability Association (MAGDA), Resource, the RNIB and MCG, felt the winning site, built by Internet development company Box UK, clearly demonstrated a commitment towards compliance with access standards.

Shows the exterior of the National Maritime Museum.

Right: the institution itself is situated on a World Heritage Site. Photo: Simon Rose. © 24 Hour Museum.

“We are delighted that this award has recognized our commitment to providing greater access to the Museum's rich and varied collections,” Aileen O'Riordan, National Maritime Museum Online Projects Manager told the 24 Hour Museum after accepting the award.

“The re-launch of the website in 2002 gave the National Maritime Museum a great opportunity to address the needs of all its audiences and to rethink the way that it delivers content to them. We had a blank canvas, which enabled us to think afresh and get it right.”

Competition judges were impressed with the site's contrast between text and background and the fact that it allows users to change the size of the text with browser controls. They also singled out its “meaningful links that make sense out of context” and use of ALT-tags to describe graphics.

In particular they praised the ease of navigation around the Collections Online system that provides access to information about 7000 objects from the museum's collection.

“Winning a Visionary Design Award from the National Library for the Blind in December 2002 inspired the Museum to further improve the accessibility of its website,” explained Aileen O'Riordan.

Shows the National Maritime Museum website.

Left: competition judges were particularly impressed by the ease of navigation around the NMM's Collections Online system.

“What's really nice is that the team hasn't become complacent, they are thinking of new things all the time. A better low-graphics version, independent quality checks and the addition of standard keyboard shortcuts for Collections online show that we've taken new steps towards greater Web accessibility.”

Also aware that institutions are developing innovative content aimed at groups with particular needs, the judges commended Tate for the presentation of its i-Map system.

The award itself is named in memory of Jodi Mattes (1973-2001), who carried out pioneering work on disabled accessibility for both the RNIB and the British Museum.

Amongst other things, Jodi ensured that the British Museum's COMPASS website was accessible to all, organising testing by blind and visually impaired users. In many ways, it is her work which has inspired other museums to develop accessible websites.

The nominees in full:

Australian Museum spiders site - click here to pay it a visit
Disability Museum - click here to pay it a visit
Hampshire Museums Service - click here to pay it a visit
London's Transport Museum - click here to pay it a visit
Museophile - click here to pay it a visit
My Brighton and Hove - click here to pay it a visit
The National Gallery - click here to pay it a visit
National Maritime Museum - click here to pay it a visit
Tate (Commended) - click here to pay it a visit

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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