Protection, Prosperity, Preservation: Stories of World Heritage

A joint Smithsonian Institution/United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) virtual exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

Stories of World Heritage was one of the first responsive websites created by the Smithsonian Institution. It was built for the Office of Under-Secretary of History, Art, & Culture (OUSHAC) and featured 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites, with objects from Smithsonian Institution (SI) collections.

At the time of the site’s inception responsive web design was very much in its infancy. However, SI was eager to adopt a mobile-first design philosophy and this project became the ideal vehicle for it. In addition to being responsive, it also had to be bilingual (English/French), as well as incorporate web recording and playback via Halsey Burgund’s Roundware audio platform.

The site was built using the Bootstrap framework (at the time known as Twitter Bootstrap). Due to the limited scope of the project I determined to build using static HTML instead of a content management system. A major goal was to provide a fast mobile experience in areas without robust cell coverage and dynamically generated web pages were much slower in testing. The site is visually rich, but extraneous graphics were kept to a minimum.

Web recording and playback was via the open-source participatory, location-aware audio platform Roundware. This Flash-based platform functioned as expected on the desktop, but shortly before the project began Adobe killed off their Mobile Flash player. The project parameters were then altered to drop mobile recording and users who reached the recording page were invited to download the mobile app from either iTunes or Google Play.

The project team consisted of:

  • Chris Ubik: web developer, project manager
  • Laurie Stepp: web designer, content manager
  • Halsey Burgund: application developer
World Heritage Mockup



The Smithsonian Institution, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization