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Bucks County Artist Database: Rethinking the Data

Paul Boger

The Bucks County Artist Database (BCAD) is home to a showcase of over 400 artists from the region referred to as the Genius Belt. The Michener Art Museum, a world-class art museum in Doylestown, PA, provides the maintenance and upkeep of this resource. BCAD is available as a free-to-access resource for the general public. Likewise, there is no cost to the artists who apply to be featured.

We had the honor to contribute to a major revitalization of the project in 2019. Like any software project that has been around for some time, BCAD was in need of an upgrade.

Over time the application had gone through a number of changes over the years and the backend data structure had become a bit of a tangled mess. On the frontend, there were several versions of the experience with varying degrees of alignment with current brand standards. Additionally, the site had numerous functional, search, and accessibility problems that would need to be resolved. In short, the current platform had reached a reasonable EOL milestone.

It was time for a rewrite.

Restructured data

The first thing we set out to resolve was the data structure. One of the pitfalls of WordPress and similar backend systems is that developers often need to jam content into unnatural structures to align to the assumptions of the platform. The data that drives BCAD was scattered across several tables and often relied on folder and file naming schemes to tie related content together.

A preview of the new content management system powering BCAD.

Backed by a powerful CMS

This is one of the reasons we love Craft CMS. We designed and implemented a significantly more streamlined and sustainable system to house the museum's data. From there we designed and wrote a custom python script to intelligently (and accurately) migrate the disorganized series of database tables and thousands of assets into our new database.

Furthermore, with a Graph QL integration, the site is primed to share data with its sister platforms across the museum - greatly improving the accessibility of the data and allowing its search optimization power to be put to full use.

The new BCAD.

Paired with a new look

In partnership with the talented team at the Michener, we designed and built a modern and responsive interface to make the exploration and use of BCAD easier and faster to iterate on. With a responsive design we were also able to reduce the amount of code required to run the experience in its multiple locations and screen sizes.

The new system has enabled a major data clean up effort by the staff and volunteers, greatly improved the performance and accessibility of the application, and has unlocked many possibilities for future growth and integrations. We are proud to contribute to the Bucks County Artist Database.

Go Launch BCAD
Published 04.16.2020