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published: April, 2002
Exhibiting Communications: Digital Narratives at the National Library of Medicine
Session: Integrated Publishing
In May of 2001, the Exhibition Program at the National Library of Medicine opened The Once and Future Web: Worlds Woven by the Telegraph and Internet.
The Library provides an unusual environment for the Exhibition Program because it is not a museum and therefore allows a lot of freedom but provides little preexisting structure for exhibitions. The challenge of displaying and interpreting communications technology provided the Exhibition Program with an opportunity to explore the power of multimedia interactives. These interactives both make use of and demonstrate the power of digital age communications technology by confronting the visitor with various digital media. One of the most powerful advantages of digitization is the ability to combine many different source media, including digital artifacts in their own medium, into a consistent, easily navigable experience. In The Once and Future Web, eleven touch-screen interactive stations deliver text, images, audio, video, and a searchable glossary, providing user-selected content relevant at that point in the narrative. Visitors can also email a Morse-coded message or a digitally manipulated picture of themselves. People can participate in a virtual conversation with one of the leaders of the Internet community, and see a demonstration of "virtual anatomy". In addition, visitors can relax in a centrally located Digital Lounge, which provides limited Internet access and displays an Internet art program. The area is made informal with chairs, tables, and topical reading materials.