I just wanted to share an example of a partcularly effective museum Flash viewer from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). The exhibition is on European Decorative Arts focusing on the 17th-18th centuries.
If you’re familiar with furniture from that era, you’ll know that the pieces were very detailed. You really need to get in close to appreciate the artistry – which would require a fairly high resolution image (which would then take up a lot of downloading time and screen real estate). However the MFA uses a nifty Flash viewer to get around the bandwidth and screen problem.
If you click on the Tour button, the Flash viewer opens and it has the standard thumbnails of items to view at the bottom. Click on one to see a closeup. Unlike other museum Flash viewers, this one has two levels of zoom, and you really need them both. Another nice feature is that the thumbnail remains in place but has a red rectangle which you can use to pan to different areas of the close up.
I’ve seen similar viewers before but this one is particularly well executed. The zooms are really high quality so you can see a lot of detail (check out either the clock or cabinet), and I was amazed at how much detail I could really see. Plus I loved being able to zoom anywhere on the object. Most zooms seem more restricted.
In order to save on bandwidth, I notice that the images pixelate while you’re zooming around much like Second Life. I think this really speeds up the movement process so that it’s in real time. I feel so totally in control. Sometimes it is the small details that make a difference.