Having been part of the early museums and the web scene (we started around 1995) we at InvisibleStudio had the curiosity of retrace some of the early dates of museum websites. Unfortunately it’s quite difficult to reconstruct with precision those early years – the only source usually is the meritorious Internet Archive, which saves websites year after year, but there is no way to be sure that the first archived version is really the first website or the first date of publication. So we headed for a different source: the domain name registration date, which gives us a more precise moment when a museum decided to invest on a web domain.
These are the domain registration dates of the 10 most visited museums in the world:
|Museum||Location||Visitors in 2018||Domain registration|
|National Museum of China||Beijing||8,610,092||27/5/2008|
|Metropolitan Museum of Art[b]||New York City||6,953,927||1/06/1995|
|Vatican Museums||Vatican City||6,756,186||15/09/1998|
|National Air and Space Museum||Washington, D.C.||6,200,000||19/06/1992*|
|Natural History Museum||London||5,226,000||01/01/1994**|
|American Museum of Natural History||New York City||5,000,000||12/04/1991|
* Registration date of the general domain si.edu, valid for all smithsonian institutes
** This is an approximate date for the first website publication as stated on https://www.museumsandtheweb.com/mw98/papers/bowen/bowen_paper.html – unfortunately we were unable to find the registration date of nhm.ac.uk.
As we can see, the most precocious seems to be the American Museum of Natural History, born only 2 years after the official launch of the web by Tim Berners-Lee, while the National Museum of China is the youngest, dating back “only” to 2008.
If you were part of that adventure and have some memories to share, please contact us, we’d love to hear from you!