By the time most civilians got around to using the web in the second half of the 1990s, the medium had been in use for years by several communities of specialists. This did little to ease the nascent aesthetic adopted by the people and institutions that embraced it. These tentative efforts have since provided ample fodder for a new generation of artists who saw in that early period the emergence of something fundamentally new, perhaps most visibly codified in the writings of the novelist and theorist Bruce Stirling.
Overlooked in all of this have been the early websites of a number of major US art museums — and it makes for an entertaining exercise, accomplished with the help of the ever-useful Internet Archive.
Did you know, for example, that the Guggenheim’s first website (sorry, “Web site”) was “sponsored by the Guggenheim Young Collectors Council”? And was created by students at Lehman College?
So here’s a few of America’s early museum websites. Note that in many cases, institutions simply did not create websites until after 2000, or the websites had prominent images that are no longer preserved, making screenshots unusable (like the Guggenheim’s website, which went live in 1996).
Not surprisingly, the New Museum’s website (circa 1997) is the most complete, with a full archival listing of Zines and CD-ROMs ready to tickle the Netscape browsings of the cyber-nostalgic.
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