Museum of Modern Art landing page logo as a static gif in 1996 (left) and as an animated GIF in 1997 (right) (images via archive.org)

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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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Museum of Modern Art, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

DIA Center, 1998 (screenshot via archive.org)

The New Museum, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

Whitney Museum, 2000. This website design seems to date at least a couple years prior, this was the oldest version with some images still preserved. (screenshot via archive.org)

Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

The National Gallery of Art, DC (screenshot via archive.org)

The Art Institute of Chicago, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Walker Art Center, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

That’s a GIF in the middle of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s splash page (remember those?), 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1998 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Kimbell Art Museum, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Albright-Knox Art Museum, 1998 (screenshot via archive.org)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1997 (screenshot via archive.org)

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Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

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