While the emergence of Web 2.0 offers many exciting opportunities for museums to engage with new and diverse audiences, the reality is that many small and medium museums struggle to maintain even an elementary level of presence on the Web. They face multiple barriers: an absence of suitably skilled staff, limited financial and technical resources, and sometimes even a lack of access to reliable broadband internet services. How can smaller museums and cultural heritage organisations be empowered to develop high quality content and to participate in the on-line environment in ways which are meaningful to them and their target audiences? This paper shows how the needs of smaller museums to reach new audiences can be met through a collaborative, democratic model conceived around the notion of a Web portal. Collections Australia Network (CAN) – a redevelopment of Australian Museums and Galleries On-line (AMOL) – uses open source software solutions to provide a range of on-line tools that facilitate the creation of high quality, customizable, easily updated content by smaller museums for publication through the CAN Web portal. This paper demonstrates how the opportunities presented by Web 2.0 have been utilised by CAN to provide the means and context for smaller museums to make their content as discoverable to audiences as that from larger, better resourced museums.
Keywords: small museums, Web 2.0, Collections Australia Network (CAN), open source, content management system, on-line collections