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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

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Riversdale Historic House Museum: A Small Museum and the Internet
Karen Bellnier, American Association of Museums, USA
http://www.riversdale.org (TBD) http://home.gwu.edu/~ktmuse/riversdale/index.htm (Current)

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 2

Many barriers can discourage smaller museums from taking advantage of the Internet as a method of communication and tool for meeting their mission. These barriers may include the cost of creating an online presence, the staff time for determining and developing an online strategy, and the concerns involved in maintaining any effort taken.

Bellnier and the Riversdale Historic House Museum collaborated to create a virtual tour of the Riversdale House. The Riversdale virtual tour of the historic house primarily focused on the interpreted era of the house, turn of the 19th century, enhanced with audio files of readings of the owner’s own words. Additionally, presentation of the ongoing restoration work was included where available. The goal was to create a visually dynamic tour with rich information, accessible with dial-up connections, and needing only occasional updates without advanced technical knowledge.

The advantages of this project approach include the focused attention of one person creating, the resources of a graduate program – both technological and intellectual – that can be brought to bear on the project, and technical expertise not available on the museum’s staff. These extra resources also allowed for external evaluation of the project.

Challenges still existed though, and must be taken into consideration by others who may pursue this approach. Human resources for guidance and oversight were needed but not always available from an already small, stretched staff. Another consideration is the level of readiness and preparation to provide the content an outsider does not come into the project knowing. Finally, a student project must meet the time constraints and curriculum needs of the academic program, which may not match the available time and needs of the museum.

The keys to success for this project lay in the willingness of the museum to provide support to the student, the student’s planning process and structure, and a shared trust in the final goal. The project process included: planning conversations, content development, storyboarding and feedback, template creation, product development, internal and external evaluation, revision, documentation writing, and completion.