Pompeii show highlights Te Papa website rebuild

SharePoint Server investment brings website up to date

Outwardly, you may not have noticed that Te Papa invested around $200,000 rebuilding its website last year.

That’s because the aim of the project was to replace a heavily customised Microsoft Content Management Server 2002 implementation with a shiny new, and hopefully much less customised, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server-based content management system.

But one of the museum’s new exhibitions, “A Day in Pompeii”, is giving the public a peek at what the new platform allows Te Papa to do.

The new technology allowed the museum to reskin its site especially for the exhibition, something that would not have been possible with the old technology, which did not support Cascading Style Sheets, says Te Papa’s website manager, Lucy Hoffman.

She says the project was technical in nature, aiming to transform the back end and make publishing easier without rebuilding the 1500 pages of content already online.

The data transfer went “pretty well”, Hoffman says. Te Papa anticipated the shift from Content Management Server to SharePoint would be relatively easy, but it was not – and that changed how the museum approached the project.

Te Papa wanted to be careful about what it customised in the system, seeking to work with SharePoint as much as possible rather than change it. The aim was to use as much out-of-the-box SharePoint functionality as possible by “not getting bogged down in detail”.

One area where significant customisation was required was in Te Papa’s event calendar. As this is quite a big part of Te Papa’s activities, the calendar was a specialised part of the application. It needed to be enabled to deliver flexible, decentralised publishing for event managers.

Under the old system, event details sometimes had to be entered several times. This was also addressed in the SharePoint rollout.

Apart from the expectation of easy migration, Te Papa chose SharePoint for several reasons. Firstly, it was an an option under the museum’s licensing scheme. In addition, Te Papa was already using SharePoint on its intranet, so developing the website in the same technology meant existing staff capabilities could be utilised and the decision brought internal and external publishing into line.

That existing SharePoint experience also paid off in the event calendar development, Hoffman says. Te Papa already had an intranet-based calendar used for maintenance and tour scheduling.

The project was scoped and rolled out by SharePoint specialist Provoke Solutions in a tight timeframe between February and July 2009. Hoffman says Provoke was “great”. The firm was based in Wellington and had the necessary experience.

“We didn’t want to be a guinea pig,” she says.

In the end, she says, the project delivered a more scalable, usable and flexible content management platform.

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