A Digital Gateway to the Museo de San Juan

Project Sponsor: The Museo de San Juan

Team Members: Michael Akstin, Kathryn Butziger, Isabella Pabón, and Jai Patel

Project Advisors: Professors Leslie Dodson and Scott Jiusto

Project Files:



The Museo de San Juan is the city’s arts and history museum located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. This project team collaborated with the Museo to design digital systems to protect their physical archives from natural disasters and to broaden the reach of their educational programs by creating a website featuring exhibitions and workshops. We traveled to other archives, collaborated with museum staff, and used an iterative design process to improve the robustness of the museums previous archival systems. We obtained permission to publish the website from meetings with the Director of Communications, Vice Mayor, and Mayor of San Juan. This project resulted in a secure digital archive and a live website, along with manuals describing how to maintain these systems for the Museo de San Juan.

Executive Summary


Located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Museo de San Juan is the art and history museum of the capital city. In 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed the physical hard drives and paper records of the Museo, leaving behind a loss of all digital data and only a few surviving records. The museum staff were left unaware of what information and documents remained about the museum’s pieces. Due to the impending increase in natural disasters, the museum staff needed a secure digital archive with cloud capabilities. Additionally, the Museo has been established for more than 40 years and has never owned a website, as it requires a complicated process that involves acquiring permission from the Municipality. Thus, visitors have had a difficult time finding basic information about the museum, such as operating hours, events, tours, and exhibitions.



Objectives and Methods

The mission of this project was to design and implement a digital archive and website for the Museo de San Juan. This would allow staff to easily access and secure information in their collections and enable visitors to find information about the Museo online. The project had the following objectives:

We worked closely with our sponsors from the Museo de San Juan to iteratively adjust the designs. Through weekly meetings, we displayed our most recent prototypes, received feedback, and implemented this feedback for the next meeting. We conducted key informant interviews with the Service and Education Coordinator of Cooperativa de Seguros Multiples, the Interim Director of the Library of Puerto Rico, and the Curator of Arts and Armor of the Worcester Art Museum. In these meetings, we viewed their physical and digital archives to guide our research for developing the archive and organizing the physical space. Additionally, we met with the Director of Arts and Culture, Vice Mayor, Director of Communications, and Mayor of the San Juan Municipality to obtain permission to publish the website and acquire a custom domain.



The Museo de San Juan is a small institution with limited resources, thus, we aimed to find an easily maintainable digital archive tool that required minimal funding.
With Museo’s institutional subscription to Microsoft 365 they can use Microsoft’s database software, Microsoft Access, for free. In collaboration with the Museo staff, we
chose Microsoft Access to develop the digital archive due to its cloud storage capabilities and compatibility with other Microsoft applications. We used forms in

Microsoft Access to improve the readability of artifacts’ data and help museum staff better facilitate through pieces. Forms display artifacts as one page at a time with an easy-to-use interface. To better organize the contents of the digital archive, we worked with our sponsor, Ms. Benitez, to identify different types of artifacts owned by the museum and organized their entire collection inventory into thirteen different tables and forms based on the types of artifacts. The Museo de San Juan needed a user friendly and cost-effective option for their website. We created two unique prototype websites on different platforms. After presenting both prototypes to Ms. Benitez, it was agreed that we would use the website building software Weebly. It has a simple user interface, requires no coding knowledge, and has a diverse set of features included in its free tier. Weebly had key components that were requested from Ms. Benitez in its default editor, such as forms, galleries, contact functionalities, and page manipulation. We presented the website to the Museo staff to receive feedback and identify additional aspects to add to the design. We discussed adding additional pages to the website, such as history, careers, and about the team pages. Importantly, we discovered that the Museo would need permission from theMunicipality of San Juan to publish the website and obtain a custom domain. The custom domain would increase thecredibility of the website and allow visitors to find the website when searching online. These meetings ultimately led to the decision that the website could be published, and the Museo de San Juan has permission to purchase a paid plan through Weebly to connect a domain. The Museo de San Juan has two options for purchasing the domain. They can either buy it through Weebly, which would automatically connect to their website, or they could purchase a custom domain through a domain register, such as GoDaddy. Both options have similar yearly payment plans, but obtaining a domain through GoDaddy would give the Museo the freedom to transport the domain to future websites not created through Weebly.





We created a fully functional digital archive system and a website that has permission from the Municipality to be published, along with user manuals to support Museo staff in maintaining both systems. The final digital archive was built using Microsoft Access, as a database that consisted of thirteen different tables and forms with custom functionalities desired by the museum staff. The final website was built using Weebly featuring eight different pages. Its design includes all necessary elements specified by Ms. Benitez and supports both Spanish and English. The site is fully functional and ready to be indexed to search engines using a custom domain. We developed a user manual for the digital archive describing how to open the archive, modify the contents, and save changes. This manual will serve as a reference on how to use Microsoft Access for Museo staff. To assist Museo staff in maintaining and updating the website after our team leaves, we also wrote a website user manual. This manual explains how to create a website from scratch, manage pages, add elements, and utilize analytics to view visitation. For the physical archival space, we created an infographic that summarized the organizational recommendations from Ms. Gonzalez and Ms. Ayala-Gonzalez.


To further develop the digital archive, we recommend using the import Excel spreadsheet feature in Microsoft Access to minimize the amount of data entry time. We also recommend using Microsoft’s Visual Basics for Applications to add custom features to the archive. Lastly, as the collection grows over time, we recommend investigating larger digital archive software. To bring the site to the public, we recommend that Museo purchase a custom domain name through GoDaddy. This will give them ownership of the domain even if they decide to move the site off Weebly. If the Museo continues with Weebly, we recommend buying a paid plan to link their domain to the website and gain access to Weebly’s premium features. In addition, we recommend adding more pages to the website in the future,
including past exhibitions, visitor feedback, and donations. Finally, we recommend that Museo hires a web designer to keep the site’s content up-to-date and to manage form responses. We recommend for the physical space that the Museo separates their documents by location, uses a cataloguing classification system, keep their organization consistent throughout their collections, place smaller documents into folders, and match their naming conventions in both the physical and digital archival systems.




The Museo de San Juan is now more resilient to natural disasters, preventing data loss. The digital archive accomplished this by allowing the museum to remotely access information about their collections and always have a backup for their physical collections. Additionally, the Museo can increase its visitation and reach a wider audience through its website. The website addresses commonly asked questions about basic information and highlights the educational program. Both systems can work together to elevate the Museo de San Juan and create a more engaging environment for the staff members.