Award for Museum of Contemporary Art website

Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) recently won a Boston GLAMi award for the “John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new” exhibition website. We’re proud to have been a part of such a significant project about indigenous art, language and culture.

Pictured: Ngalyod by John Mawurndjul

The award for the Education and Collection Extension: Website category was presented at the 23rd annual MuseWeb 2019 conference in Boston, Massachusetts and was accepted by Jean-Pierre Chabrol, Head Of Digital Media at MCA.

The physical exhibition, website and print book were the result of a long-term collaboration between John Mawurndjul, the MCA and the Art Gallery of South Australia. The exhibition was on display in Sydney from July – September 2018, in Adelaide from October 2018 – January 2019 and is touring nationally throughout 2019–2020. John Mawurndjul (born 1952) is a Kuninjku master bark painter from Western Arnhem Land.

He is celebrated for his mastery of rarrk (fine-painted cross-hatching), a tradition shared by generations of Kuninjku artists. The exhibition of bark paintings and sculptures tells the stories of Kuninjku culture and the significant locations surrounding the artist’s home in Western Arnhem Land. Sturm Software Engineering worked with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Pollen and Boojum to develop the new main MCA website as well as the John Mawurndjul exhibition sub-site. Our role was in providing a website editing system that could accommodate the degree of interactivity and complex visual design required by the project. The MCA are, without doubt, one of the most creatively sophisticated, passionate and technically savvy clients we’ve worked with. Where many organisations rely on stunning stock photos for their website, the talented staff photographers simply take their own. MCA’s in-house exhibition design team manage thousands of artworks, artists and events, working quickly and with a high level of attention to detail. They needed a system that could combine intricately designed textual, visual, audio and video elements into magazine-quality layouts, but with the interactivity of the modern web. The system also needed to integrate with the MCA’s extensive artwork database and event management systems.

The platform we built is based on Wagtail CMS, a Python/Django platform for large and complex websites. This system allows the exhibition team to snap together carefully designed blocks into beautiful pages and to search and manage nearly 3,400 pages, 11,500 images and 400 videos. The website also services the in-exhibition kiosks and displays.

In the bigger picture, this project is one of the most important we’ve ever done. If we could get all Australians to see the exhibition, it would go along way towards helping understand the land rights issue and why it’s so important.