HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA — Thanks to the Web, it is now possible to visit almost all the world's great museums from the comfort of home. But sometimes, you may not want to visit the great museums. Granted, the Hermitage and MoMA are fine with their da Vincis and Picassos, but what if you're in the mood for a nice exhibition of Japanese milk bottle pull tabs or Battlestar Galactica costumes? Perhaps a scrolling gallery of "Ominous Needlepoint" is more to your taste. The Museum of Online Museums can satisfy both extremes, with links to some of the best and the worst of Internet museums.
The museum is actually a project of Coudal Partners, an advertising, design, and interactive firm in Chicago, and resides on their business site along with an archive of such other collections as architecture, poster art, and "Games and Nonsense" links.
With a few featured selections in the center of the MoOM index page, the bulk of the content is divided into three sections. The Museum Campus offers links to the homepages of such brick-and-mortar institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian, and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. Next, the Permanent Collection holds sites "of particular interest to design and advertising," though you don't need to be in the industry to appreciate the selection. Choices here include the works of Van Gogh and Gaugin, Ansel Adams, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Themed sites include American advertising galleries, roadside art, and images of advertising murals painted on the sides of New York buildings.
The third collection, Galleries, Exhibitions, and Shows offers the largest number and greatest variety of sites. Most of the entries are personal rather than institutional pages.
Some collections are impressively thorough surveys with an admittedly narrow focus. (Examples include NASA's technical drawing exhibit, a geographical directory of world paper money, and a "War of the Worlds" book cover display. Other sites could actually be listed in loose sub-categories a Japanese theme extends beyond milk bottle caps to include collections of Japanese coffee cans, milk cartons, and manhole covers. Musical sites range from the "Online Guide to Whistling Records" ("The Fabulous Whistling Nun Presents 'The Sound Of Music' ") to "Bizarre Album Covers" ("Music for Expectant Fathers") to the Internet Museum of Oddity Records.
This last example concentrates on the kind of cardboard and flexible novelty records found in magazines and cereal boxes and provides sound and image files for each artifact. (If not for this site, history may have forever lost the "Yodelling Hankies," "Nixon's the One," "Tips on bringing up baby from Tex and Jinx," and a self-amplified, pencil-powered, cardboard gramophone0 Skippy Peanut Butter promotion.)
Finally, listed at the top of the index, but a last stop for first-time visitors, is the MoOM Annex. This is the "what's new" section of the site, and includes some links that haven't yet found their way into the main listings. With subject matter that includes vintage Popular Mechanics Magazine covers and "Bollywood" album cover art, the Annex is worth checking on a regular basis.
Given that most entries in the MoOM are personal sites, you're more likely to encounter broken links and less-than-scintillating design. But with this kind of variety, you're likely to find a site that will provide a few minutes distraction and perhaps even entertainment. And if not? Well, there's always the Louvre.
The Museum of Online Museums can be found at http://www.coudal.com/moom.php.