Conference Sessions

Museums and the Web: An International Conference
Los Angeles, CA, March 16 - 19, 1997

Wednesday, March 19, 8:00 - 9:30 am

Special Interest Group Breakfasts

Issues and Topics

Continental breakfasts provide opportunitis for unstructured discussions; participants can share information on common interests.

Wednesday, March 19, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Session 12: Getting and Keeping Audience Attention

Beyond electronic commerce, museums are using the Web to market themselves and their programs. They will fail if they cannot both gain and retain the attention of the (worldwide) communities they serve. Learn about the methods being used by other Webmasters to keep these measures of success in the forefront of operational concerns.

Chair: Rebecca Reynolds Moore, President, Venture Forth, USA

Jeremy Rees, Director, International Visual Arts Information Network, UK

Income Producing Activity and the Web
The ITEM (Image Technology in Museums and art galleries) database has, since 1990 been compiled and published as a twice yearly hard copy text only reference work on subscription. In October 1996 ITEM knowledge base changed to a Web text and image site incorporating extensive search and other facilities -- on a subscription basis but with free-access sampling. The process of this transformation, the pitfalls of low (nominal) budget transfer into leading edge and rapidly evolving technology, the problems encountered in the acquisition of the image elements for use on WWW, the compilation and administrative reorganization and the response of existing and potential subscribers will be discussed. This experience of the ITEM transformation will used as a basis for considering other museum related examples of income producing activities on the Web, including reference to the topic of images and copyright and moral rights - and for open discussion.

Norman Barth, President, Les Pages de Paris / The Paris Pages, USA

The Paris Pages Experience: 30 Months and 100 Million Accesses Later
Two years or more ago, just about every Web site was the 'first' at something or another. The Paris Pages was the first Web site dedicated to the City of Paris. This included the first online pages about the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and other museums, and monuments in the City. It has been celebrated in the international press since 1994. The ambitions of the site are to provide cultural, documentary, and educational content. Over the last 30 months, it has grown to 8000+ pages, and 3000+ images, with roughly 6 million accesses per month. It has done near real time reporting of news and events in Paris since 1995. Since November 1996, there has been a true online Boutique with secure transactions. The Boutique sells cultural and educational items, such as CD-ROM by the Reunion des musees nationaux (RMN). The content and technical dimensions of the server are vast enough that we have been confronted with many issues not currently discussed in the general 'Internet' press, and have had to find solutions to them. This has involved creation ofWeb database management tools, HTML creation tools, as well as tools for managing diverse data types (images, text, addresses, telephone numbers, geographic location, metro stops, figure captions, history, current events etc.) in a way conducive to using them in the Web site. Other issues are related handling the correspondence generated by an estimated 500,000 unique 'sessions' per month, and finally, copyright, and financial issues.

Julia Matthews, Web Project Manager and Head Librarian, Debra Luneau, and Isabella Guthrie-McNaughton, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada

Where Have All the "Surfer's" Gone? How Are We Going to Keep Them Coming Back?
The Web site of the Royal Ontario Museum was officially launched on the 16th of January 1996. It has averaged 1,800 site visitors on a daily basis. Wanting to increase virtual visitor satisfaction and attendance to the Web site, its developers began to rework the site. Navigation links were retooled; indexing was reexamined, metadata; was introduced; proposals for new interactive projects were reviewed and put into production; and strategic Web marketing became more focused based on our Web site audit reports. The paper will address:
  • how to get critical information about how your visitors are using your site and how you can use that data to improve Web site further.
  • strategic Web marketing
  • the best free marketing resources on the internet today
  • targeted linking, and other tools

Wednesday, March 19, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Session 13: Accessing Museum Collections Over the Web

The most obvious is not always the easiest: providing access to museum collections over the Web can require significant rethinking of our existing practices to make information available (and meaningful) to the public. Examine the technical, programmatic, and practical issues involved in making databases of our holdings accessible.

Chair: Leslie Johnston, Stanford University, USA

Jim Blackaby, Senior Systems Developer, Office of Technology Initiatives, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, USA, and Beth Sandore, Coordinator for Imaging Projects, Digital Library Research Program, University of Illinois, USA

Building Integrated Museum Information Systems: Practical Approaches to Data Organization and Access
Ever wish you could put your fingers on all of the information about a specific topic in a museum, regardless of whether it was drawn from the objects collection, exhibit catalogues, the library's holdings, or the prints and slides collection? Or your interest might even extend beyond a single department. With computerization and public access projects, museums are increasingly called upon to provide information drawn from a great deal of heterogeneous material. This paper investigates fundamental approaches to constructing integrated museum information systems. A key element in the process of building these systems is the development of a thorough understanding of the data structures and formats within your organization. Also critical is the need to determine how data ought to be stored and shaped, and how a museum would like the data to be displayed, once it is retrieved. Practical examples are drawn from projects in which the authors have participated, including the Oregon Historical Society's Collections Access Project, sponsored by the U. S. Dept. of Education, and the Museum Educational Site Licensing Project, sponsored by the Getty Information Institute, and The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. An overview is provided of current Web and database technology that supports integrated systems development, and consideration is given to the ways in which these technologies match existing information access systems.

Kevin Donovan, New Media Applications, Willoughby Associates, Ltd., USA

The Best of Intentions: Public Access, the Web, and the Evolution of Museum Automation
Internet technologies, specifically the Web, have captured the imagination of museum workers. The potential of the Web as a medium for what is usually referred to as "Public Access" has sparked interest at the highest levels of museum administration, evidenced in new rounds of investment in museum automation. Taken at face value, this enthusiasm is welcome and is certainly informed by the best of intentions. But it does not necessarily follow that this investment will result in improved intellectual access to museum holdings or new audiences. The reasons why the best of intentions are unlikely to yield expected returns include:
  • current ideas about online Public Access;
  • the information systems that lie behind Public Access systems; and,
  • the organizational structure of museums (particularly US museums)
    The purpose of this presentation will be to:
  • examine the good intentions of Public Access;
  • dissect how Web-based Public Access usually manifests itself;
  • discuss the information systems that currently feed this approach;
  • propose a new model for what might constitute Public Access (and attempt to rename it); and,
  • discuss the information and organizational systems required for this new model
    The presentation will include illustrations drawn from the Web and mock-ups of proposed Web-enabled museum educational sites.

Howard Besser, Visiting Associate Professor, School of Information Management & Systems, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Integrating Collections Management Information into Online Exhibits: The World Wide Web as a Facilitator for Linking Two Separate Processes
Historically, automation for exhibition and for collection management have developed along very distinct and independent paths, with different sets of vendors, software, tools, and platforms as well as no possibility of integration. The Worldwide Web offers the possibility of linking collection management information to interactive exhibitions, overlaying the narrative structure of exhibitions onto the item-based rich collection of information found in collection management systems. This paper shows what such an integrated system might look like, explains what activities will be needed to get there, and reviews some existing Web activities that begin to approach such a future integration.

Wednesday, March 19, 1:30 - 3:00 pm

Session 14: International Collaboration, the Cultural Heritage Profession, and the Web

The Web has spawned numerous examples of large scale cooperative endeavors and is becoming a major focus of cultural heritage strategy at both the national and international level. Examine undertakings and strategies exploring the larger potential of the Web for collaboration.

Chair: Jane Sledge, Getty Information Institute, USA

Bruce Williams, Director, Information Services Erik Rask, Web Site Manager, and Wendy Thomas, Project Leader, Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada

Partners, Profiles, and the Public: Building a Virtual Museum Community
The Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) has recently launched two Web-based products -- the Guide to Canadian Museums and Galleries, and the Heritage Forum. This paper will examine the issues in developing these products, the challenges that have been met and that remain, and ways in which individual institutions might apply the CHIN experience to their own situations. Issues and challenges include:
  • creating partnerships, analysis of partners' resources and capabilities
  • establishing mechanisms for efficient and effective online data contribution - including authentication of data through the use of user IDs and passwords
  • analysis of audience needs
  • highlighting contributors
  • proving benefits and demonstrating success through mechanisms for tracking site visits and feedback
  • encouraging commitment and ongoing contributions
  • promoting the products within the organizations and to the larger community
  • minimizing costs through the creation of resources that can be re-packaged and re-used

Jonathan Bowen, Lecturer, Department of Computer Science, Reading University, UK

The Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp): Whence and Whither?
The Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp) were started as a personal project in 1994, forming part of the Virtual Library distributed information repository initiated by the original inventors of the World Wide Web. The VLmp resource provides a leading directory of online museums and associated resources which has grown exponentially in size and use since its inception. In 1996 the directory was adopted by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), helping to ensure its long-term future. This presentation will provide a brief history of the development and use of VLmp, and consider its possible future directions.

Jean-Louis Pascon, Technology Coordinator, Ministère de la culture, France

Developing a National Strategy for Multimedia Cultural Heritage
The emphasis given to information acquisition and dissemination for cultural organizations is clearly reflected in some recent important public statements, including that of the June 1991 document adopted by 34 governments issued by the Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). Greater emphasis was given to this subject at the last meeting of the G7 nations in Brussels, where it was specified that "culture is a key dimension of the Information Society." In most European countries, long-term efforts have been undertaken to preserve, describe and index cultural heritage. More recently, many public authorities and private entities have begun digitizing important parts of this heritage. Over the past several years, public sector cultural organizations have put a greater emphasis on knowledge dissemination to different types of user communities - both domestic and foreign. As a consequence, increased importance has been directed to satisfying the needs of different user "publics." Such efforts are leading to the development of market segmentation -- involving distinguishing different user subgroups, where each is characterized by an homogenous set of needs. This approach results in the development of different types of services to address the needs of different targeted user populations. In this context, interactive multimedia technologies enable cultural organizations to implement strategies of content dissemination which takes into account the alternative ways information can be structured and communicated to different publics. This paper will examine how strategies for multimedia cultural heritage infrastructures and products are being formulated in France and the policies that are being adopted.

Cary Karp, Director, Information Technology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden

The International Museum Community's Position in the Internet Domain Name System [ed. note: paper URL invalid Sept. 10, 2006:]
One of the fundamental bases for the operation of the Internet is the Domain Name System (DNS). This is a rigorously structured distributed database system that is used to translate such things as the names of Web sites into the numerical addresses used to establish communication with host computers. The number of top level domains (.COM, .ORG, .UK, etc) contained in the DNS is in the process of being expanded. This may result in the museum community being able to establish a greater degree of sectorial identity than it currently has.

A domain designation has obvious potential for providing an easily remembered means for locating an organization's network resources. Unfortunately, the demand for attractive domain names far exceeds the supply. One of the reasons for the current DNS revision is to provide some relief from this difficulty. If the museum community wishes to take advantage of this potential it needs to articulate its needs clearly and take corresponding action.

This presentation is intented to discuss possible approaches towards this end. It will be introduced by a description of the basic workings of the DNS and the domain registration process. Particular attention will be paid to international initiatives designed to enhance the heritage sector's prominence both in the DNS and in other registries of network resources.

Wednesday, March 19, 1:30 - 3:00 pm

Session 15: QuickTime Virtual Reality and the Museum

Tools which enable visitors to walk through spaces from another age or at another scale that could have a significant impact on museums in the future. By exploring some early implementations of QuickTime virtual reality (QTVR) to the museum environment, this session will pose questions about the technological requirements and opportunities as well as the nature of the experiences for which virtual reality might be best suited.

Chair: Kathy Jones Garmil, Harvard University Peabody Museum, USA

Rickard S. Toomey, III, with Ann Foster Quackenbush, Beth Shea, Bonnie W. Styles, and Erich K. Schroeder, Illinois State Museum

QuickTime Virtual Reality and Museums on the Internet /mic_home
QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) provides an opportunity for museums to share collections, exhibits, and research with a diverse audience: in the museum, in the classroom, and over the Internet. At the Illinois State Museum, we have been using QTVR technology to provide educational opportunities using collections and to enhance ongoing research efforts. Perhaps the most exciting use to which the ISM has put QTVR is as a component of the Museums in the Classroom project. Museums in the Classroom is an initiative of the Illinois State Board of Education under which museums, including the Illinois State Museum work closely with K-12 teachers and students throughout the state of Illinois to guide the classes in creating online and off-line projects on topics of interest to the museums and classes. In this project, the Illinois State Museum is working with the Brookfield Zoo and 25 schools on projects featuring natural and cultural diversity. An important component of this inte! raction is allowing students to come to the museum and to help them create QTVR objects of pieces from the museum collections which pertain to their research. The students then incorporate these objects into their WWW exhibits. Another important potential use of QTVR at the ISM involves communication with scholars who would like to borrow items from the collections for study. QTVR objects can be created of fragile items and researchers can view these via the Internet before determining whether they are needed. This may prevent shipping an item to a researcher only to have them find that the crucial portion of the specimen is not visible.

Charles M. Calvo, Digital Research and Imaging Lab, School of Architecture, Mississippi State University, A.L. Rosenberger, BioVisualization Lab, and Carl Hansen, Office of Imaging and Photographic Services, Smithsonian Institution

The Digital Darwins Project
The Digital Darwins Web site is a pilot project to demonstrate 1) the application of 3-D modeling and visualization to the study of museum objects, and 2) the viability of the Internet as a delivery medium for virtual museum material. The Digital Darwins concept envisions the electronic delivery of museum objects to K-12 classrooms around the country, and the provision of those classrooms with the hardware and software tools to enable students to create their own digital models of specimens from their local environments to comparison and interaction with the museum material. Thus students may truly become scientists and researchers, and classrooms may become museums. The Digital Darwins project is an interdisciplinary effort conducted jointly with the BioVisualization of the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Alfie Rosenberger, Director. Charles Calvo, acting as Director of the S/ARC Digital Research and Imaging Lab (DRIL) supervised two undergraduate students during the month of July, 1996 to produce the Web site to coincide with the Smithsonian's 150th anniversary. The site is the world's first three-dimensional Natural History Web site. The work represents a significant advance in the application of three-dimensional modeling and visualization to morphology and systematic biology, especially in areas such as feature identification, measurement and comparative study. And the work demonstrates the potential to create exciting, object based delivery of museum material to K-12 science classes via the Internet.

Wednesday, March 19, 3:30 - 5:00 pm

Session 16: Closing Plenary Panel

Museum networking and marketing potentials are being tapped in new ways on the Web. Leaders in the profession examine the issues raised at the conference from the perspective of major undertakings in which they are involved and reflect on past lessons and future directions.

Chair: David Bearman, President, Archives & Museum Informatics, USA

Maxwell Anderson, Director, Art Gallery of Ontario

Constantinos Dallas, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Crete, Greece

Louise Douglas, Department of Communications and the Arts, Commonwealth of Australia, Australia

Archives & Museum Informatics Museums and the Web Register Exhibit Sponsor Program

Last modified: January 20, 1997
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