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Published: March 15, 2001.


Bhutan--A Virtual Exhibition

Christian Breiteneder, Hubert Platzer, Vienna University of TechnologyMartin Hitz, University of Klagenfurt, Johann Stockinger, Institute for Social and Cultural


Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods" was a successful exhibition shown at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna. Later, other museums throughout Europe decided to take over the exhi­bition. This paper reports on the project of redesigning this exhibition for the web: The motivation and goals of the project, the structure and features of the virtual exhibition and the lessons learned during the course of the undertaking are discussed.

Keywords: virtual exhibition, Bhutan, web museum, hypermedia

1. Introduction

All material creations of a culture, called objects in a museum context, are carriers of semantics, are symbols and vocabulary of a foreign view of life. A real exhibition shows the objects taken out of their original contextual meanings. In addition, real exhibitions are subject to linear presenta­tions: The real exhibition space forces visitors to follow the story-line from one room to the other, from show-case to show-case.

The possibilities of hypermedia allow a new way of presenting an object in its cultural context. Firstly, the use of multiple links allows the visitor to recognize the meaning and significance of an object in various contexts of culture and contributes to understand the complexity of interconnec­tions of cultural appearances. Secondly, multimedia technology allows the use of an object to be shown in the exhibited culture. Thirdly, explanations of objects in real exhibitions are limited to a few sentences or paragraphs. A hypermedia presentation permits to offer a palette of descriptions with different levels of detail according to knowledge and needs of visitors.

The virtual exhibition "Bhutan--Fortress of the Gods" aims to exploit these hypermedia possi­bilities for a virtual exhibition and to bring into relationship real and virtual presentations. The vir­tual exhibition comprises several lines of navigation:

  • the virtual exhibition itself--The exhibition is arranged around a central object that serves as reference point: an altar with religious statues. Each of the depicted gods or religious personal­ities represents a specific cultural aspect and leads to a specific line of story, as for example, re­ligion or history. The various story lines, however, are not depicted isolated from each other, but are interleaved.
  • presentation and journey of the real exhibition--The real exhibition was shown in 8 museums. Some of these concrete realizations are also presented by floor plans or panoramas. Floor plans allow to navigate through the exhibition and lead from one room to the other.
  • elationship between real and virtual exhibition--Objects and specific topics presented in the real and in the virtual exhibition are interlinked allowing visitors to switch between exhibitions. This on the one hand allows to obtain insight in the making of the real exhibition and on the oth­er hand to learn more about how a particular object is interconnected with other elements and contexts.
  • various types of user (visitor) interaction--Visitors applying for a free account and password will be provided with additional services, for example, better navigation support. For these vis­itors profiles will be stored in order to gain insight in their interests and the perception of the exhibition in general.
  • object index--The most important objects of the exhibition will be described and depicted in an object index.

This paper describes the project Bhutan--Fortress of the Gods and the lessons learned: In Sec­tion 2 motivation and goals of the project are discussed. Section 3 introduces the virtual exhibi­tion, its structure and features. Section 4 describes various experiences we gained during the course of the project.

2. Motivation and Goals of the Project

2.1 The Real Exhibition

The idea of having a large exhibition about the Kingdom of Bhutan was born in the spring of 1994 by Peter Kann, the Director of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna. Never before had an ex­hibition been created which provided fundamental insight into the history, religion and daily life of this small Himalayan country. The curator of the museum, Christian Schicklgruber, was as­signed to the execution of this exhibition. A short time thereafter, the French Tibetologist and eth­no-historian, Françoise Pommaret, could be won as guest curator. She had lived in Bhutan for over 10 years, where she had conducted academic research. The exhibition was financed by the Aus­trian Ministry for Education, Science and Culture. In addition, substantial financial support was provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which, in this exhibition, presented its development cooperation projects with Bhutan.

The exhibition in the Museum für Völkerkunde Wien was opened on November 10, 1997 and ran until March 30, 1998. A continuously told story established a thematic connection between all of the rooms. With almost 100.000 visitors, it was to become one of the most successful exhibitions of this museum's history. A large part of the exhibition objects were on loan from the Royal Gov­ernment of Bhutan. From Europe, the most beautiful artifacts from the most important private and museum collections were presented.

Originally, the exhibition "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods", was intended to be shown only at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna. Later, however, other museums and institutions throughout Europe also decided to take over this exhibition. The exhibition was shown in Switzerland, the Netherlands and at various locations in Spain. The last exhibition closed at the end of April 2000 in Leiden (the Netherlands).

2.2 Considerations of the Ministry

The idea to make a virtual exhibition subsequent to a real exhibition was born in a department of the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, which is concerned with new media in education and science and with telematic infrastructure. This idea started from the consideration that a real exhibition is expensive in monetary as well as labor terms and usually has to be disman­tled after a few months. Very popular exhibitions have published catalogues that are often quickly sold out. Furthermore it is difficult for families who live in more remote areas to go to the capital for the sole purpose of visiting a special exhibition. Information presented virtually could then also be used for educational purposes. A corresponding project should advertise the possibilities of a virtual implementation and thereby initiate similar undertakings and create the tools which can simplify the realization of virtual exhibitions in the future.

Based on these considerations, a real exhibition was chosen which could be transformed into the prototype of a virtual one. Various preconditions had to be fulfilled:

  • it should be a successful exhibition
  • the exhibition should have been designed in Austria
  • the museum officers should have a certain understanding of hypermedia presentations
  • the officers' readiness to invest a lot of time next to their normal work in the museum
  • the possibility to hand on didactic inputs by way of the virtual transformation
  • the content should support a hypermedia transformation
  • the copyright must be authorized
  • a rapid realization should appear possible

Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods was the exhibition that seemed to fulfill all of these criteria. It was especially the complex relations between the religious and profane aspects, which appeared ideal for a hypermedia linking.

After the decision for an exhibition was taken, the ministry initiated a project co-operation be­tween the designers of the exhibition and a team of computer scientists. The team of computer sci­entists was expected to have previously done relevant work and to have the understanding for scholarly work necessary for a constructive co-operation with scientist from the humanities and social sciences. In a similar vein, the graphic designer was chosen because of his interest in cul­tural affairs and specifically the culture of the Himalayas.

2.3 Goals of the Virtual Exhibition Project

The main goals of the project were:

  • design and development of a reusable framework for virtual exhibitions (cf. Breiteneder et al., 2001)
  • design and implementation of the virtual exhibition Bhutan•
  • integration and testing of state-of-the-art technology
  • comparison of various real exhibitions
  • comparison of different ways to adapt the exhibition concept to the given spatial conditions (provides important information for museum pedagogics)

The people who designed the original real exhibition reached their limits in adapting the objects to the varying spatial conditions of the different museums in Austria, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands and welcomed the conceptualisation of the virtual exhibition as a chance of trans­gressing the boundaries set by reality. The fundamental aim was to offer information and enter­tainment and to try out a novel way of narrating a subject matter of an ethnological museum.

3. The Virtual Exhibition--""

3.1 Structure of the Virtual Exhibition

The curator of the exhibition, Christian Schicklgruber, developed the idea to start the virtual ex­hibition from a central object, which should remain the central element. The way through the vir­tual exhibition starts at a Bhutanese altar with religious statues (Figure 1). Each of these deities or religious personalities stands for a specific cultural aspect - the Buddha for Buddhism or the founder of the state for history and politics. This means that, starting from the main figures of the altar, various narrative lines lead through Bhutan's religion, history, organization of the state, eth­nic diversity and culture of every-day life. These topics, however, are not presented in isolation, but are interlinked in multiple ways.

Figure 1  The altar as central element:

Figure 1 The altar as central element:

This principle of developing the story line on various levels, starting from one object as point of departure, is reflected in the hierarchical structure of various page types. The altar with all statues is on the highest level; on the second level (Figure 2), there is one of the main persons (or deities) with the respective topic on one page. Here visitors can choose whether they want to follow the person or the topic, some information of which is then provided on the third level. The actual story then only starts on the fourth level. In other words, the first three levels offer an overview and ori­entation and also function as distribution pages. The exhibited objects only appear on the fourth level, just like the videos, field pictures and sound samples. It has to be admitted, though, that these ideas of the curator may sometimes appear confusing for visitors.

Figure 2  Interlinked culture (level 2):

Figure 2 Interlinked culture (level 2):

The lines of narration are structured vertically, which, except for the videos and sound samples, does not distinguish them very much from a book. The added value of this type of narration only sets in with the links between the various narrative lines: when visitors make use of this, they can jump from popular religion to history and from there to abstract Buddhist philosophy, or from the gods to the royal crown. The intention is however not to confuse the users. On the contrary, it is to put the users in the place of travellers in a new cultural surrounding. Wherever the eye turns, it finds something new, without linearity. Connections develop only slowly, often by chance or rep­etition. This also means that the visitors are encouraged to get drawn into a reading adventure. Vis­itors who ignore the links can read each narrative line linearly as they are used to from books.

The interlinked narrative structure sets various requirements for producing the texts. Each page has to be written in such a way that users can understand it, irrespective of how they got to that page. At the same time, a certain amount of suspense must still be maintained for those who choose to read linearly.

3.2 Features of the Virtual Exhibition

The starting page offers the choice between a "high tech" and a "low tech" version. This form of implementation was chosen so that, on the one hand, innovative features could be included and tested and, on the other hand, the access to the page should remain as general as possible. This should especially be possible in Bhutan itself because Bhutan has recently made a big effort to push ahead the internet accessibility. Seeing that average inhabitants cannot afford it themselves, UNESCO has set up so-called "Digital Cottages", which are internet cafés adapted to the local specifications.

Figure 3  Home page:

Figure 3 Home page:

The home page (Figure 3) offers the user various possible paths to navigate through the topics as will be explained below.

3.2.1 Navigation Mechanisms

The following navigation mechanisms are supported:

  • Manually defined hyperlinks
  • Hierarchical navigation links, like in a book
  • Navigation links within the viewed pages
  • Search functions which allow AND or OR operations, the distinction between lower and upper case letters as well as directed searches in titles and page texts, titles and legends of pictures, glossary and key words.
  • An index of objects, which points either to an object appearing on a particular web page or to its appearance in an exhibition room.
  • Pictures in page texts are explained in pop-up windows.

Figure 4  Example of pop-up-window for picture legends

Figure 4 Example of pop-up-window for picture legends

  • In addition, picture windows can be enlarged. By clicking on such a window, its settings will change to allow the legend of the picture to appear to the right of it.

Figure 5  Example of picture window enlargement

Figure 5 Example of picture window enlargement

  • A sitemap of the exhibition allows the visitor to move on to any page at any time. The sitemap may be can be called up in three different ways: via the home page, the central navigation button (comparable to the Windows "start" button) and the page footer. A visitor may switch between four different layouts of the sitemap: top level thumbnails of the respective pages down to the chapter level; top level thumbnails with hierarchical pop up menus; frame-based table of con­tents and server side expandable tree structure.
Figure 6  Sitemap of
Figure 6
Sitemap of
  • An integrated glossary: relevant terms are explained in inserted texts (comparable to the tool tips in Office packages).
In addition, orientation aids are built in systematically, with the aim to make sure that visitors don't get lost:
  • The hierarchical position within the exhibition is given on each page (top right).
  • The present position is highlighted in the menu of the hierarchical links (as in a book).
  • Two types of guided tours.

3.2.2 Interaction Mechanisms

Besides the afore-mentioned mechanisms of navigation, the following mechanisms of interaction have also been integrated:

  • Visitor's book - Visitors can read all existing entries of the visitor's book, which are arranged by topic, and write new ones.
  • Help - This function offers explanations of all mechanisms of interaction, in particular the aids of navigation and orientation as well the necessary plug-ins.
  • If they wish to, visitors can identify themselves to the system by user name and password. Vis­itors can then fill out a questionnaire about the exhibition. Personal details such as postal ad­dress, etc. are thus made available and allow the Museum to hand on personalized information. In exchange, the Museum plans to award free entry tickets for correctly completed question­naires. Furthermore, registered visitors can use lookmarks (see below).

3.2.3 Presentation in Various Windows

In the high-tech version, "" is presented in one main window and two auxiliary windows. The window, in which "" is called up for the first time, becomes the main window, also called content window. The content window presents the homepage, as well as the actual contents. The sitemap (a table of contents or navigational aid) is displayed in a separate auxiliary window. Therefore, the sitemap can, depending on the monitor size, either remain open next to or behind the content window.

Figure 7  Example of content window and auxiliary windows

Figure 7 Example of content window and auxiliary windows

3.2.4 Lookmarks

Lookmarks are thumbnails of existing web sites, which can be arranged in a three-dimensional space, like documents on a real desk. The user decides on the choice of web sites, their arrange­ment in space and their groupings. Groupings describe connections as regards to content, which can be recorded via freely chosen names, whereby web sites can be integrated in various contexts. The arrangement in spatial depth reflects an individual preferential ordering of the documents. Simpler recognition is yet another advantage. This concept allows the representation of a great number of documents (comparable to administration via a tree structure) without overloading the available space. The user can always add, delete or move single pages.

Figure 8  View on Lookmarks

Figure 8 View on Lookmarks

3.2.5 CD-ROM Production

The tools developed in the project make it possible to create a static CD-ROM version from the dynamic one, with the structure of directories remaining intact. Especially after all editorial and technical changes have been made, it would be useful to produce a CD-ROM version, which will particularly be advantageous for presentations with slower or lacking internet connections.

3.3 Converting Original Material

The text sources that could be used included the exhibition catalogue (cf. Schicklgruber and Pom­maret, 1998), which was designed as a specialist book and consisted of individual articles. In ad­dition, there were rather short descriptions of the objects used in the real exhibition. In the course of developing the project, it became clear that 90% of all texts had to be written anew. When de­scribing the objects it was possible to do that in much more detail than in the real exhibition.

Pictures of objects were adapted from the exhibition documentation and new materials were used for the field shots. The video clips were partly taken from the exhibition and partly from other sources.

Because the exhibition was no longer in Austria at the time when the project was initiated, spatial panoramas of the Viennese exhibition could not be made. The original plan was to make object movies of the most important objects, but that was not possible since, after the last exhibition in Leiden the objects were taken down immediately and returned to their various owners, as well as the Bhutanese government, who had been waiting for their return for a long time.

4. Lessons Learned

4.1 Research Aspects and Results

For the present project "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods", the topics development process and de­velopment technology were projected as main research aspects. In practice the primary goal to de­velop a fully functioning website, which would go far beyond the usual status of a research proto­type and would thus be able to meet all demands made on a production system, has led to the ap­proach to restrict technological experiments mainly to the initial project phase and its accompanying development of prototypes respectively. Important new insights were gained in particular on the development process level as well as in developing explorative prototypes such as database editing interfaces and the visualization of bookmarks (lookmarks).

The following discussion focuses mainly on features specific to the development of a virtual mu­seum/exhibition or similar WWW-applications, which can be defined through the following nor­mative characteristics:

  • High aesthetic standards of the application's full design which guarantee a homogenous look & feel
  • High relevance of the available media and as a consequence high quality standards of used material
  • High relevance of text-based information
  • Wide range of provided information: this means that while the approach adopted in most WWW-applications is to gradually restrict the information provided, the present application aims at making the user ideally browse through the complete catalog
  • Low volatility of contents ("static contents")
  • A broad target audience and high demands on user-friendliness resulting thereof
  • Multilingualism

Such applications will consequently simply be referred to as "Virtual Exhibitions" (VE).

4.2 Process

The practical experience gained by the project management yields essential findings from which the ideal-type structure of the process involved in the development of a VE can be deducted. It is the so-called waterfall model in its purest form, which is characterized by the fact that each stage in the development process has to be completed and its results must be frozen before the subse­quent stage in the development can be initiated.

For an idealized process the following requirements have to be met:

  • Preliminary selection of an adequate development environment (toolbox)
  • Existence of a structural concept (framework) which is suitable for the concrete application do­main
  • A development team that is familiar with the process model, the development environment and the structural concept and is thus able to concentrate on producing new contents.

    Subsequently the following tasks involved in content production have to be carried out step by step:

    1. Presentation, discussion (if necessary formal evaluation) and optimization of several drafts proposed for the design of the VE. Comparably to a corporate design manual, the following issues have to be clarified:
      • Page format(s)
      • Page structure(s), content structure
      • Fonts
      • Colors
      • Logos
      • Integration of pictures and other non-text media
    2. Definite selection of one design proposal
    3. If need arises, adaptation of the development environment and the structural concept
    4. Content production
    5. Tests (functional tests, quality control of contents)
    6. Translations
    7. Tests (functional tests in general, functional tests with regard to linguistic mutation, qual­ity control of translated contents)
    8. Generation of the production version (publishing)
    9. Adaptation for the off-line version (CD-ROM)
    10. Service cycle: if necessary restart procedure from content production.

The waterfall model represents a theoretical optimum because it minimizes any kind of multiple expenditure. This is particularly important in this case because sometimes there are extreme inter­dependencies between the individual stages and their predecessors. Examples for such interde­pendencies are, for instance, content modification after translation or the modification of design defaults after content production.

Of course it cannot be assumed that this idealized process model can be completely implemented in practice (as experience gained in software engineering in general and from the Bhutan project in particular have clearly shown). In order to keep negative impacts arising from potential process aberrations as low as possible, it is highly recommendable to make adequate provisions that have proven successful also in the implementation of the Bhutan project.

One of the most essential aspects in this context is to clearly separate content, structure and layout. By content we understand the presented information (text, pictures, videos etc.), while the struc­ture describes interrelations existing between individual content elements (e.g., "text body x is the first module of chapter y"). The layout finally defines the way in which the information is present­ed. Due to this clear separation, so-called modification locality can be maximized: If modifica­tions along one of the three dimensions become necessary, they can usually be carried out locally, i.e. without any major impacts on the other dimensions. In this context especially decoupling con­tent production from other activities is essential. In concrete and real processes, tools and tech­niques develop through and while editing the content, and the need for any necessary technical support becomes obvious only gradually. In order to guarantee an efficient project progress, it is therefore important to make sure that these findings gradually gained during elaborating the con­tents, do not impede content compilation and implementation.

4.3 Re-use

As another important development paradigm the aspect of re-use was integrated in the process and the software architecture. A "modular system" was introduced to guarantee use or/and reuse of individual parts of the VE in a variety of different ways. The most important elements of the toolbox are as follows:

  • Page structures
  • Page titles and navigation tools
  • Picture titles and legends
  • Text modules

In the case of text modules, however, re-use is considered as rather problematic. In order to reach the (originally set) target to provide various points of view on the contents by re-using text mod­ules, the individual modules need to be virtually free from contexts. In the present project this would have caused a non-affordable increase of text production work. Therefore the text modules of "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods" were used only once (apart from their re-use in the low tech version).

4.4 File System versus Database

For "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods" two different software-architectural approaches were pur­sued simultaneously, which are associated with different paradigms: the file system approach and the database approach.

The first approach is characterized by the fact that all accumulated materials such as modules, templates, style sheets etc. are filed directly in the file system of the development platform in a physical structure that widely corresponds to the logical structure of the VE. Furthermore this structure also resembles that of the production platform.

This approach has the following advantages:

  • The developers can easily see the logical structure from the physical one. This means that the exhibition itself is reflected in the file system, and the available material is immediately acces­sible for the developers without requiring the use of any special tools.
  • Global operations like those which are often necessary for the tool evolution discussed in the last section of this work, or which may be required for layout modifications (such as structural traversals or replacements), can easily be realized ad hoc by using shell script programs.
  • The files can be viewed by using a web browser, both as manually created drafts as well as in their final version created by the generator. This allows an immediate control of the effects cre­ated by editing processes.

In the database approach, on the other hand, all information relevant for the VE, except for layout templates (in the case of the VE "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods", however, the big multimedia files were also stored outside of the database for pragmatic reasons), are managed by a relational database management system (DBMS), and linked up as a website by a generator program (basi­cally a complex database report).

This approach has the following advantages:

  • The separation of contents, structure and layout is enforced through the conceptual model un­derlying the database. In contrast to the file system solution, this approach does not allow any inaccurate compromises. Apart from the advantage of offering modification locality during the development process, maximum flexibility with regard to a later re-use of the material is guar­anteed.
  • Due to adequate consistency rules the DBMS is able to forbid inadmissible conditions within the VE. This helps to prevent the emergence of certain error types right from the very begin­ning.
  • Through the use of suitable lock mechanisms, the DBMS is able to support and / or regulate data modifications which are made simultaneously by several editors.
  • A DBMS (in the present case Oracle) is usually platform-independent, while file system-based tools can typically be run only by a certain operating system family (in this case Unix). There­fore it is expected that less work and fewer costs are associated with porting a DBMS-based VE on another platform.
  • And finally the use of a DBMS as VE-platform in the presence of an already existing media da­tabase can be considered as a "self-evident" solution (by expanding the conceptual models of the media database). The use of a media database is highly recommendable for filing contents, origin, quality and copyrights of the available material.

Compared to the file system approach, however, three disadvantages can be identified:

  • The database entries can only be tested with a web browser after the generation procedures have been run.
  • Due to the high factoring degree involved in this approach, editing database entries requires an additional complex editing interface that still needs further improvement.
  • The variety of possible exhibition structures is restricted through the selected conceptual data model.

A final assessment of both approaches can only be carried out seriously in the presence of a con­crete application profile of the planned VE. On the basis of already gained experiences, it can be said that most advantages of the DBMS-based approach only prove fully useful in case of a sig­nificant re-use rate within the overall process. This means that in projects that primarily aim at a one-time exhibition presentation, the increased tool evolution costs cannot be amortized.

4.5 Integration of Standard Tools and Interfaces

One major factor for successfully implementing web presentations is a timely selection and a team-wide definition of development tools. While the VE-specific tools used during the work on the project "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods" were gradually specified and implemented in the course of the project, at least part of the development complexity could be reduced due to timely selection of standard development tools. This applies in particular to the interface between the im­plementation of the exhibition and editing of the contents, as well as to data analysis, which is nec­essary for taking over the content into the simultaneously developed database-based versions of the exhibition.

Specifically the following tools were applied:

  • HomeSite as HTML and style-sheet editor with syntax coloring. This performance feature, which is primarily relevant for the developers, has proved extremely favorable while working on "Bhutan -- Fortress of the Gods" also with regard to content production and linguistic muta­tion, because it directly supports focusing on the text itself.
  • Dreamweaver as layout editor for drafting and modifying layout templates. Dreamweaver al­lows the import and export of so-called "editable regions" of a template, for example as XML, and it supports round-trip engineering with a suitable HTML editor (in the present case Home­Site).
  • PHP and m4 (Unix macro processor) as script languages. Compared to less widely used web development tools, m4 has the advantage to immediately support recursive text generation, as this is for example necessary for modules containing modules and modules with parameters.
  • Oracle Call Interface by PHP (PHP-OCI) as database interface. In this case, however, an addi­tional abstraction level was introduced in order to allow at any time a change of the underlying database management system. All applied database access methods were encapsulated as (us­er-defined) PHP-functions and can be easily adapted to other database interfaces, requiring only minor and strictly localized modification work (modification locality!).

4.6 The Impacts of the "Browser War"

One of the most significant inhibitors in developing a platform-independent VE is the incompat­ibility of different browser types. With regard to the basic idea of complete platform-indepen­dence of WWW-contents once pursued by CERN, the commercial war between the browser sup­pliers is extremely counter-productive and has considerable repercussions on application devel­opment.

Although the technical details on browser incompatibility is not discussed here, it has to be point­ed out that, depending on the respective project stage, about 30% to 60% of the technical expen­diture is due to this very problem which could easily be avoided if effective standards actually ex­isted and were respected by the browser suppliers.

4.7 Usability

In May 2000, five students examined the VE "Bhutan - Fortress of the Gods" during the course "Exercises on Software Engineering", which mainly focused on "Software Ergonomics". They analyzed the German pages available at that time and tested the website's fitness for use as well as its conformity with existing style guides. The results of these studies were discussed in the devel­opment team. In most of the cases respective modifications of the VE were taken into account so that listing them here would no longer be relevant at the time being.

However, it has to be pointed out that several deviations from recommendations given in widely-used style guides were identified, which could no longer be corrected when the tests were carried out because the design defaults had already be fixed, or whose correction was considered as un­desirable. Some of the critical points are discussed below:

  • The so-called "tunnel concept", i.e. the strictly sequential presentation of the first pages of each section, was not realized as a "concept", but was felt as disturbing due to the resulting inconsis­tency of the navigation structure.
  • The book metaphor exceeds the generally recommended restriction to a maximum of three hi­erarchical levels. As this recommendation, however, usually refers to websites with a strong "search aspect" and the peculiarities of a VE are not specifically taken into account, this deep structure applied in the present project was maintained.
  • There is no utility to collectively print comprehensive parts of the VE.
  • The "colored bullet point" is not recognized immediately as a reference to the sitemap.
  • A general introduction about the objectives of the website is missing.
  • Copyrights of pictures and other media are not always obvious.

5. Conclusion

At this stage, the virtual exhibition has not been visited often enough to be able to fall back on an extensive amount of visitors' feed back. One of the reasons is the fact that, due to its dynamic gen­eration, it's not been integrated in many search engines yet.

Each of the two kinds of exhibitions, virtual and real, has its specific strengths. Both exhibitions deal with the same objects, but present them in a way that is specifically adapted to the respective medium. While the real exhibition depends on the authenticity of the objects, the virtual one offers the possibility to interlink different pieces of information. Added to this, the virtually exhibited object has to share its role as carrier of the narration with other multimedia presentations in the web.


We would like to acknowledge the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture under contract number GZ 50.501/4-III/9/99, the additional financial support by the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna, the Society of the Friends of Ethnology and Druk-Yul, the Austrian-Bhutanese Society, and thank especially the Kingdom of Bhutan and all the people par­ticipating in the project.


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