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The Phillips Collection Search Case Study


The Phillips Collection (TPC) was awarded a grant to implement a federated search across its collection of artwork, library of research materials, and website. It contracted Web Master Designs to do the technical work related to implementing a search engine, accessing the collection and library information, and presenting it in a way that was useful to visitors and researchers.


TPC asked Web Master Designs to implement Adobe Search & Promote to index website pages, collection information from TPC's collection database, and card catalog information from their library system. This information would be presented in a federated search such that information from all three sources would appear in the search results together, providing users with the ability to find web pages, artwork, or library resources.


Initially, Adobe Search & Promote was implemented to search the website pages and return results. Following that, the information from the collection database was exported so that each item could be indexed separately and a hidden "global index" page was created and added to the search index. This export was automated to run daily, providing up-to-date results for searches. Finally, the library information was exported in a MARC data format and then converted into HTML files which are used for the search index.

After the initial release, some user testing was done via a kiosk that was set up at TPC, along with a web-based test site that was sent out to participants identified through social networking. The results of this user testing helped us to refine the search results and identify the need for providing filtering of the search results by website, collection, and library.


The new federated search has been very useful for users of the website, and The Phillips Collection was extremely pleased with the results.


"I have been working with Robert and Web Master Designs for 12 years after he was referred to me for his good work by a professional colleague at a prominent museum. He has been everything I was told to expect and more. He has helped us implement numerous major projects: a complete redo of our website architecture more than once, implementing content management systems, and a search component that drills into our collection, library databases, website, and blog content.</p>

Frankly, I would run anything past him. He is clear that he is not a designer, but he manages to fix design flaws for us on a regular basis. He's honest, dependable, even-keeled, helpful, affordable, innovative, great at presenting ideas in digestible language, and just a joy to work with for my team and for other departments here, including our communications and our curatorial departments. Whenever we are considering a new technical implementation that will interface with our website and collection content, I make sure he is included since he can usually provide the most direct and affordable solution to any problem. His job costing is impeccable and I can depend on it always being correct. While I am on one coast and he is on the other, there is no downside whatsoever to our working arrangement. I'm so happy to have the opportunity to work with him. A+++. I wish all of my professional working relationships were this easy and reliable."

- Darci Vanderhoff, CIO, The Phillips Collection


The Phillips Collection opened to the public in 1921 and is America's first museum of modern art. It is a private institution that is not a part of the federal government. It relies for support on admission and program fees, endowment income, and generous assistance from individual donors, corporations, foundations, and others.