Seattle Art Museum Launches Microsoft-Powered Website

By Akhtar Badshah, senior director, Citizenship and Public Affairs

The Seattle Art Museum’s first site, an art deco masterpiece perched atop one of the city’s tallest hills, opened for the first time in 1933. It hosted about 300,000 visitors in its first six months. Two more Seattle Art Museum (SAM) sites were welcomed decades later: an expansive 150,000 square foot building downtown that was expanded in 2007 and the sprawling Olympic Sculpture Park on the city’s waterfront.

The only known photograph from SAM's 1933 opening.

Over the decades, millions have been enriched by the museum’s offerings. And now, through SAM’s newest site, which launched online yesterday, the public can experience new ways to engage with the museum., funded by a grant from Microsoft, stunningly presents the museum’s collection, exhibitions and programs in a new and exciting way.

It’s not just a website, but a virtual showcase of the museum’s exhibitions, collections, and programs. SAM has created a visually rich, easy-to-navigate site that we believe will attract more museum visitors, donations and sponsors, and build on the museum’s reputation as one of the country’s great art museums.

To those who lovingly cultivate the museum’s collections and build SAM’s following, it also represents a milestone in the way the museum presents itself to the public. The previous website was “wall-to-wall words,” according to Kevin Schroer, Creative Director at Seattle Art Museum. Kevin points out that the museum’s website had about 180,000 unique visitors a month but those visitors’ level of engagement was between zero and ten seconds: It is anticipated that website traffic will increase significantly as a result of this investment.

“We can now beautifully and dynamically showcase SAM’s collections, exhibitions and programming to a global audience. Our hundreds of thousands of virtual visitors can now easily navigate information about visiting our three locations and engage with the museum in many different ways. We are very grateful to our stellar SAM team and Microsoft for the generous grant that made this new site a reality,” said Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

In addition to funding the redesign, we provided Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 technology to serve as the collaboration platform for SAM’s web content management. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 has made the website’s vast content more visually-engaging and user-friendly, while allowing for additional multimedia integration and flexibility. Now the website allows teachers to book school tours, parents to access information about family and teen programs and everyone to view virtual art collections.'s new homepage

Roberto Yglesias, Business Technology Director at Building i, a local technical services company brought in to help create the SharePoint-powered site, emphasizes how visitors can more easily access high resolution images and videos from the virtual collections, museum maps, visitor information and events, and purchase tickets since the site is now optimized for mobile devices.

“By making the site fully accessible from mobile devices, people walking down the street looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon can pull up the SAM site, become really intrigued by what they see, and decide spur of the moment to visit the museum. These are moments of opportunity to engage the public that SAM just didn’t have before.”

Key benefits of SAM’s new site include increased efficiency and cost savings. It’s hard to believe from looking at the new site that the museum used “out-of-box” web parts and display templates in SharePoint 2013 - that way, the museum didn’t have to create a lot of custom designs. And now the museum’s IT department is no longer the site gatekeeper.  Changes to the site can be made by more than a dozen contributors as part of SharePoint’s unique administrative controls, which allow the IT administrator to grant specific access to individuals, while also providing a single location to organize content, share ideas and manage a project. It used to take days to update the site. Today it takes minutes.

“This kind of support – donating cutting-edge software and providing a grant to bring a new web experience to life – makes a real difference to an organization such as the Seattle Art Museum,” said SAM board chair John Frank, vice president for Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs. “I’m proud that Microsoft is so committed to the local community.”

In Washington State, Microsoft works to strengthen communities and ensure a high quality of life for current and future citizens by making the arts one of our top priority investment areas. We believe that excellent, diverse, and accessible programming in the visual arts are essential for vibrant communities.

That’s why we’ve been so proud to work with SAM over the years, and why we’re honored, through, to help bring their collections and programs to more people in the Puget Sound and around the world.