Overview of MW98: Why you should attend MW98 Learn new skills to enhance your museum site Explore issues and controversies facing Museums and the Web Experts featured at MW98 Commercial products and services to enhance your web site Organizations supporting MW98: Online interchange regarding the virtual museum experience Juried awards to best web sites in 5 categories Overview of MW98: Why you should attend MW98 Learn new skills to enhance your museum site Explore issues and controversies facing Museums and the Web Experts featured at MW98 Commercial products and services to enhance your web site Organizations supporting MW98: Online interchange regarding the virtual museum experience Juried awards to best web sites in 5 categories
MUSEUMS AND THE WEB 1998

Overview of MW98: Why you should attend MW98 Learn new skills to enhance your museum site Explore issues and controversies facing Museums and the Web Experts featured at MW98 Commercial products and services to enhance your web site Organizations supporting MW98: Online interchange regarding the virtual museum experience Juried awards to best web sites in 5 categories

Archives & Museum Informatics

info @ archimuse.com

www.archimuse.comArchives and Museum Informatics Home Page

published April 1998
updated Nov. 2010

Papers

Hands Online

Martin Freeth, Science World

  • Inspired by the Exploratorium, the Bristol Exploratory pioneered hands-on science in Britain. At the time this was the only interactive kind of public education about science.

    Runs VHS video clip from Exploratory (30 secs), and describes the Exploratory and how it was founded by Richard Gregory. Brought interactivity into the science curriculum. Links to Exploratory web site to illustrate.

  • On television, BBC Science in London with 'Horizon' (shown in North America under the name 'Nova' through WGBH), and the BBC Natural History Unit, based in Bristol, led the world in serious science and nature programmes.

    Runs short 'Life on Earth' clip. Explains how Chris Parsons, who made that series, conceived of both Wildscreen World and the ARKive. Runs short video about the ARKive and describes how it will work.

  • On the science side, we are only just beginning to develop our hands-on exhibits for the new Bristol centre. To add to the physical interactivity established at the Exploratory, we'll also be developing virtual reality exhibits, sometimes linked to simulators. It's not too difficult to devise exhibits which illustrate Newtonian physics - Einstein is a different matter. But in a virtual world you could, for example, see what would happen if you changed the speed of light. Would you get heavier? Would time slow down for you? Then, if you used scaleable authoring software, we can provide small-scale versions of such 3D environments on the web.

  • On the Internet, we also plan to provide a great deal of marketing and educational material to complement what we shall be doing in the building itself. For a visitor to Science World, the visit itself should be like the jam in a sandwich: the bread each side (the educational material) is what makes it worth eating. In this analogy the jam represents the sweet experience of the actual visit.

  • We plan to go live on line this year, more than a year before the new centre actually opens. But we could scarcely do better than the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the earliest science centre of all, in creating a valuable and enjoyable web site.

    Illustrates with examples from Exploratorium web site

  • On-line generally, now that the costs of video-conferencing and connecting via ISDN are falling so quickly, the opportunities are fantastic.

    Illustrates with short VHS tape of Irish music groups in Dublin, Paris and New York playing on-line together on St Patrick's Day.

    This was done nearly two years ago now, and soon everyone will be able to play.

  • Using such technologies, we would like to combine real-science, hands-on science and on-line links. For example, groups of kids in the afternoons in Bristol could use a solar telescope to measure the angle of the sun, while similar groups did the same thing in the mornings in a Canadian science centre. If these groups were linked with video phones or a video conferencing system, and shared data with one another, they could really measure the circumference of the earth. Given sunshine both sides of the Atlantic, what we then have to work out of course is just how to schedule and manage this sort of session.

  • We also plan to develop a science news room in Science World, and we are working with the University of the West of England as this idea is developed. In this project we want to collaborate with many other centres because news content is very expensive to develop, and because this will keep our visitors in touch with the wider world.

    Illustrates with images from the news room project.

    We hope to have a rota of volunteer experts, available live on-line to our visitors and ready to answer visitors' questions (in text, audio, or video) about the news of the moment.

  • Like many other organisations, we shall also establish web cams in many sites which are relevant to the exhibits and the resolution and quality of web cam images will certainly improve during the next two years before we open. So, for example, if visitors are enjoying themselves building models of Isambard Brunel's bridges, there'll be a live web cam on the Maidenhead bridge showing trains passing over, and another on the Clifton bridge showing how the structure out there in the real world flexes and moves as cars drive over it. So we hope visitors will see the relevance of their models as they make them.

    Illustrates with images of Brunel's bridges. Connects to other web cams live.

  • Then, of course, as the Exploratorium site also illustrates, the Internet is about feedback and shared experiences. There are new kinds of environment for interaction on line. Some of them are only used for personal chat and games just now, but they have a lot of educational potential.

  • Here's an experiment we did together with British Telecom when I was at the BBC Multimedia Centre, entitled 'The Mirror', linked with a TV show called 'The Net'.

    Runs short tape illustrating 'The Mirror'.

    The only problem was that all these early adopters wanted to talk about was bugs in Internet Explorer! In my view, web sites and on-line links must not be about digital technologies they must meet other needs and interests.

  • On-line links, combined with the convergence of television, computers, telephony and museums, will certainly turn traditional television and traditional education upside down by linking the world and by giving people real choice through interactivity.

  • Here is another example of work which we developed at the BBC.

    Illustrates (using a PC CD-rom) examples of interactivity from 'The Troubles', with its associated web site.

  • So how will all this affect museums or science centres? Will there be any point in coming to our buildings? Will an on-line virtual world do just as well? I suggest that in fact a combination of real and virtual worlds will be extremely powerful educationally. It is not good enough just to tack web sites onto museums or add internet cafes to science centres. But if museums keep ahead of the frontier and recognise what they are good at, they really will be the jam in the sandwich: the sweet emotional experience which makes the intellectual bread digestible! That's why we have to keep up with the latest developments: so we can go on doing things few people can do at home.



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