Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


Cultural Heritage Outreach and Museum/School Partnerships: Initiatives at the School of Information, University of Michigan

C. Olivia Frost , University Of Michigan, USA

Session: Tools for Teachers

We describe a set of initiatives which explore means to use the Internet as a positive social force to empower communities to create, capture and share cultural heritage through museum and K-12 partnerships. The Cultural Heritage Initiative for Community Outreach (CHICO) ( at the University of Michigan (UM) School of Information has implemented an ongoing series of prototypes through which K-12/museum partnerships use the Internet as a vehicle to promote and enhance the on-site museum experience.

The potential of the Internet to empower users to capture, share, and enhance K-12 learning is exemplified in a project in which local middle school students developed their own Kids Guide to a special exhibit of Monet paintings ( A related project enabled middle school students to learn about different styles of art in museum visits, communicate further with museum curators through a webboard, and create their own art works in the styles they had just learned about (

The potential of the Internet to provide contextual content is being explored to create awareness of different cultures and facilitate cross-disciplinary learning. A partnership between CHICO, the Smithsonian National Museum for the American Indian (NMAI), and Alaskan Yupik Indian communities was developed to showcase an NMAI exhibit on Yupik masks. In the course of this project, Yupik schools, Yupik community elders, and a leading scholar on Yupik culture came together in a cross-generational enterprise to capture content to place the mask exhibit in a broader cultural context and to enrich K-12 learning about the diversity of Native American culture. In addition to the website (, a CD ROM provides cross-disciplinary context for the exhibit by linking it to environmental study of the Yupik geographical area. School children became active participants and communicated with each other on topics relating to the exhibit.

Providing context useful to promote and contextualize museum resources and to maximize museum visit time was an objective of projects undertaken by CHICO and the UM Kelsey Museum of Archaeology


HREF="">, and ( For some repositories, where access to physical collections may be limited or even non-existent, the Internet can provide a vehicle for access and contextualization of content. CHICO websites developed for a Harlem Renaissance exhibit in partnership with the Schomburg Center for the Study of Black Culture (, and websites developed for a fragile quilt collection at and the Henry Ford Museum are examples.

Another major initiative brought together K-12 teachers using primary materials in instruction, and museum education professionals in a workshop to explore how classroom teachers and museum educators can enrich learning through effective use of digital and on-site primary materials in museums, archives, and other cultural repositories.

These are some of a larger set of initiatives undertaken by CHICO which use the Internet as a mechanism to broaden access to cultural heritage resources, to enhance appreciation for real-life exhibits, and to promote cross-cultural, cross-generational discourse and exchange.