Today the Art Institute of Chicago
, the museum's new interactive floor plan and virtual gallery tour system on its website. The first art museum in the world to dynamically combine its floor plan with fully up-to-date high-definition and panoramic views of its galleries, the Art Institute now offers web surfers and visitors planning a trip to the museum a completely unique experience of the galleries. Pathfinder features not only the interactive floor plan, which is part of the wayfinding system installed throughout the museum for the opening of the Modern Wing, but also the ability to zoom in and out of the panoramic views for closer looks at works of art, direct links to the available catalog information for individual works, and Spanish-language prompts and on-screen navigation tools. The initial launch of Pathfinder includes views of nearly a third of the museum's permanent collection galleries, with images of the remaining galleries to be added throughout the year.
"The Modern Wing has really been the impetus for numerous widespread changes in the ways the museum makes itself accessible to all visitors, both virtual and real," said James Cuno, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute. "We have a new building, with its fresh approach to our collections, to the city, and to the landscape around us. And now, with our new interactive pathfinder on the web, we are bringing these fresh approaches to the hundreds of thousands of people who come to our website seeking information about our museum and collections. This pioneering development is a testament to the efforts of our information technology department and our constant quest to serve our visitors to the best of our abilities."
Led by Sam Quigley, museum Vice President for Collections Management, Imaging, and Information Technology, the Art Institute team worked with Slate Roof Studio, designers of interactive media, and AvantLogic Corporation, the creators of the interactive mapping software MapsAlive. The web version of Pathfinder is based on the new interactive digital wayfinding system which was installed in the museum on touch screens in May for the opening of the Modern Wing. Taking the wayfinding system to the museum's website offered the museum the opportunity to link it to other web-based resources, such as the online collection catalog and information about daily programs and current exhibitions. Now web visitors are able to view the complete floor plans, click an icon for gallery shots, and virtually "wander" through specific galleries via high-definition digital images that have been stitched together to create 360-degree views of the galleries. Viewers now also have the ability to navigate within the "virtual" galleries by zooming in on individual works of art for a better look or seeing them with other works displayed nearby, the way the curators arranged the galleries. Web surfers can also click on the images to access full information and often descriptive label text about the work using the online collection catalog.
Pathfinder additionally offers information about daily programming and gallery tours, all current exhibitions, special activities in the new Ryan Education Center, and visitor amenities such as restaurants and shops. The site is available in an English language version as well as a Spanish language version. The museum will continue the ongoing process of photographing all the permanent collection galleries throughout the summer, fall, and winter, with the goal of making available every Modern Wing gallery by December. The remainder of the permanent collection galleries will be available online as they are reinstalled as part of the museum-wide renovation project.