ViMuseo.fi project. Towards digital inclusion of small museums
During the demonstration the prototype of the ViMuseo tool will be presented. The ViMuseo is a tool to create virtual museums (implemented as Web CMS). It is designed for small institutions that want to increase their digital accessibility, interact with their audiences and network with other museums. Museum representatives can register, describe their own institution, add objects (object consist of textual description, images, YouTube films, Google maps, etc.) and use them to create virtual exhibitions and projects. The exhibitions and objects may be shared, stored, commented and tagged.
Two development versions of the system were demonstrated at the MW2011. This year the final prototype with ready solutions will be presented, and the basic functionalities demonstrated. The main focus is put on the graphic user interface design, which facilitates friendliness, usability and simple navigation. In the design process, many important elements were considered: (1) sustainable development and technological change: how to design flexible solutions which work on different devices and are supported by different technologies? (2) usability: how to meet the requirements and skills of the users, who are not very familiar with fancy museum applications, but are ordinary internet users, and (3) interrelation between traditional graphic design and digital design: what traditional design elements and rules can be successfully incorporated into a digital project.
The ViMuseo system has been planned, discussed and developed in cooperation with the programmers, graphic designers and of a number of small Finnish local history museums, which are run on a voluntary basis. The development is supported by research on small museums and new technologies in the Finnish context. The ViMuseo tool is a part of an exploratory research project conducted at the Department of Art and Culture Studies at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) and within the doctoral program of the Finnish Research Education Network on the Society’s Memory Functions. The goals of the research are: (1) to investigate the possibilities of new media in presenting cultural heritage in small museums; (2) to analyze the cooperation between the researcher, graphic designers and programmers, and (3) to construct the tool to create virtual museums. Modified ethnographic action research (EAR), participatory design (PD) methodologies are used in this research. Research is aimed at digital inclusion of small, Finnish museums, and to provide results that may be used in other national development projects and initiatives, such as Museum2015 and the Local Museums’ Functioning Development Project (appointed by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture). The research follows the Finnish and international recommendations and standards. Its future implementation is at this moment being discussed and planned with the other Finnish projects.
The non-commercial and interdisciplinary nature of the project represents an unique approach to design, research and development of online museum services. It provides innovative design and research results, which make us reconsider many museum, design and research practices and theories.
 Laine-Zamojska, M., Virtual Museum and Small Museums: ViMuseo.fi Project. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2011. Consulted December 15, 2011. http://www.museumsandtheweb.com/mw2011/papers/virt...