March 22-25, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sessions: Abstract

Creating A Virtuous Circle Between A Museum's On-line And Physical Spaces

Ailsa Barry, The Natural History Museum, United Kingdom

There has been significant debate over the last decade concerning the comparative merits of the virtual and physical offers within museums. Both have been treated as relative silos, and are often developed by separate teams who have little contact or overlap. Museums have been slow to recognise the full potential of integrating these two key areas and the value this would bring to the visitor experience.

In order to extend and evolve their relationship with visitors, museums need to develop a holistic view of the audience journey across both the physical and virtual spheres. New media offers opportunities to engage the visitor within both the virtual and physical museums. It can continue visitors' experience beyond the walls of a museum and create a 'virtuous circle' between the virtual and physical space. Visitors are inspired on-line to visit the museum, while within the museum access to a variety of media channels (PDAs, mobiles, kiosks) encourages visitors to extend the journey by book-marking, voting and sending links of relevant information home. The museum experience is therefore personalized and can be explored by visitors in their own time and to the degree that they wish.

However, in order to achieve this, museums must strategically implement this concept, considering multiple platforms and delivery channels when developing content and looking for opportunities for cross-fertilization where possible.

A review of recent projects that the Natural History Museum, London, UK, has developed highlights some of the issues that arise as museums begin to implement the strategy of a virtuous circle, and indicates some of the research, resource and infrastructure issues that need to be addressed if it is to be successful.

Session: On-Line + On-Site [Design]

Keywords: virtuous circle, kiosk, Internet, user-journey, handheld, multimedia, ubiquitous computing