The Future Is Here

The Smithsonian Institution Archives launches a website refresh.

Welcome to the newly refreshed Smithsonian Institution Archives website! As our regular visitors may have noticed, we launched a new theme for our site on September 27, 2017. 

Screenshot of website with grey/green background, series of images of the Archives, and orange block


Our previous Drupal theme was first launched in 2011 when we moved our site over to Drupal. Since that time, we have upgraded the backend, made improvements to our searching, and increased the availability of field books, but the look and feel of the site remained generally the same. Six years later, it was starting to look dated. A site that hasn’t changed in that amount of time is kinda like wearing the same cloths from the 90s, and no one wants to do that.

 Picture of boy holding hands to head, scrunching face, with colorful teenage mutant ninja turtle swe

So we embarked on a project to improve the site that that took six months and involved reviewing around 300 user surveys (yes, we do read those), data from over 1.1 million visits, and 173,621 lines of code. What we were left with is a site that is more user-friendly, mobile optimized, and WCAG 2.0 accessible.

 Screenshot of homepage with white banner, muted grey image with search bar in the middle and golden

The new theme is more than a fresh coat of paint. On the backend, it incorporates Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets (better known as SASS). SASS allows us to use variables in our CSS, which means each color, font style, etc only needs to be defined once. This greatly cuts down the time it takes to write and maintain our styles. We are also making use of CSS3 and image sprites to cut back on the amount of items the site needs to load for the theme. For example, all of the social media icons at the bottom of the site are really just one image loaded once, but used multiple times.

On the frontend you will notice we have a new collections page, which offers new ways to jump into our content: Collections Groups (curated groupings of our collections around a central theme), Recently Digitized Material, Most Popular Collections and Finding Aids with Digitized Content. Our collection items are now sporting a new design, as are our finding aids. By using Disqus, it's now easier than ever to comment on our blog.  Also, our Smithsonian History Featured Topics are now in an easier to read, more magazine like format.

We hope everyone enjoys the new look as much as we enjoyed implementing it!

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