Case Study

RISD Museum: COVID-19 Virtual Graduation

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COVID-19 forced RISD’s museum and college to close to both visitors and students.


Graduating students were supposed to have an exhibition featured in the RISD Museum as part of their graduation, but an in-person, in-museum experience was off the table.

Our Solution

Acquia Cloud Platform


Students felt like they had a comparable virtual experience to what they would have had in the Museum itself and in the days following the launch of the online exhibition, the site saw a 1,200% spike in website traffic.

The Client

Established in 1877 as part of a vibrant creative community, the RISD Museum stewards works of art representing diverse cultures from ancient times to the present. The Museum interprets its collection with the focus on the maker and deeply engages with art and artists, presenting ideas and perspectives that can be inspiring and complex. It aspires to create an accessible and inclusive environment that builds meaningful relationships across all communities.

The Situation

Like many other institutions, when COVID-19 struck, RISD’s museum and college had to close; no visitors were allowed in and students were sent home.

The Challenge

As part of RISD’s graduation, all undergrad and graduate students were supposed to have their work featured in exhibitions in the museum. However, due to COVID-19, the University could no longer offer students an in-person, in-museum experience as a culmination of all their hard work. Finding a suitable workaround was key.

The Solution

Partnering with Oomph, Inc., the museum leveraged Drupal’s Layout Builder, along with its publication authoring platform — one that had launched only 6 months prior to the pandemic — to create the first fully digital publication in conjunction with the “RAID the Icebox Now” exhibition, celebrating and somewhat recreating Andy Warhol’s 1969 exhibition at the RISD Museum, “RAID the Icebox.” 

Building on that win, Museum staff proposed to the University that an online exhibition would be possible with their new and scalable publication platform. To prepare for this new use case, Oomph and the Museum quickly collaborated on new features and permissions that could accommodate a large array of new author users (students) and department heads. One of the most significant additions was a way of including Javascript code in a safe and secure manner; these custom student-created scripts led to increased page manipulation beyond the platform’s initial design flexibility and gave ambitious students more ways to tailor their presentations. 

The Results

The most significant result was making students feel like they had a comparable virtual experience to what they would have had in the Museum itself. While RISD could not reproduce the social aspects of a Museum exhibition, they were successful in giving the students a big public send off and a platform upon which to be heard. And Acquia infrastructure seamlessly handled the 1,200% spike in traffic.