Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


The Art of Collaboration: Art Museum New Media Projects

Christina DePaolo , Seattle Art Museum, USA

Session: Demonstrations 1

I will demonstrate how web based art museum projects are a collaborative effort that is creating new models for museum work. The Seattle Art Museum's web site projects have, for the first time, brought together diverse departments within the institution to create new programming. The issues these projects have brought up are broad based: how do we create an even playing field where all staff members can understand web technology and how it will impact the Museum? How do we create effective new media projects using the resources that are currently available to us?

To demonstrate how this may be done, I will focus on a web site project I am currently working on for our fall 1998 exhibition Egypt, Gift of the Nile. A traveling exhibition from the University of Pennsylvania, it highlights 130 objects representing 3,500 years of Ancient Egyptian civilization. The web site is being created for both the Internet and for use inside the gallery. The purpose of the web site is to help the Museum curators and educators reach their goal of bringing alive the rich, complex and enduring culture developed by the ancient Egyptians. The web site, once it is completed, will be fairly complex, containing: a multimedia glossary, a virtual offering table, two interactive sections where children can learn more about Egyptian culture, curatorial essays, curriculum units for teachers, along with the traditional general information sections about the exhibition.

In order to accomplish web projects that represent the diverse work of the Museum, the Information Technology department created a training program that offered staff members (representing all departments) html skills and an in-depth understanding of web technology. As a result of this three-month course, staff members come to the planning table with a strong and realistic understanding of the potential of web site projects. For the Egypt, Gift of the Nile web site, I worked with the curator, educator, programmer, designer, AV tech, and the chief of Information Technology to create and develop the content. A central question asked during the process was "how do we create a large amount of content for the site with the limited resources available to us?" As a result of this discussion, we reached out to the community and had several graduate students, scholars and volunteers participate in the project. This project is helping us to break new ground and gain the experience we need to make informed decisions about how we effectively incorporate New Media into our Museum environment and use it to fulfill our programming goals.

See Egypt, Gift of the Nile: