Museums and the Web 1999

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Archives & Museum Informatics
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Published: March 1999.


On-line Exhibit Design: The Socio-Technological Impact of Building a Museum over the World Wide Web

Paul Marty , Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois, USA

Session: In-House Integration

In this demonstration, we will illustrate the way in which advanced information technology is currently being employed at the University of Illinois to transmit important and timely data concerning museum artifacts to the exhibit designers and architects working on the construction of a new museum facility: the Spurlock Museum (a museum of world culture and history). Thanks to the implementation of brand-new information systems custom-designed for the new museum, comprehensive data about all 40,000 cultural and ethnographic artifacts in the museum's collection is being distributed over the Internet in a fashion intended to keep those designing the new museum up-to-date with regard to artifact specifications. The resulting product, the Virtual Spurlock Museum, is a series of HTML pages and CGI scripting that links to the museumís internal database systems and dynamically presents to the exhibit designers accurate information about which artifacts will be displayed where in the new facility. Thanks to the Virtual Spurlock, exhibit designers are able to access any individual exhibit planned for display in the new museum and immediately see a list of all artifacts--with digital images and data--currently selected by the curators for that exhibit. In this manner, exhibit designers and museum curators can collaborate on-line in a dynamic fashion, electronically deciding which artifacts will be best suited for display. This demonstration will include an analysis of the interface technology used to link the museumís databases to the WWW as well as a discussion of the social impact this technology has had on the relationship between museum staff and exhibit designers.