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Lecture for George Washington University MSTD 297 "Museums and Technology" course. 03/27/08

Transcript of The Online Museum

  • 1.George Washington University MSTD 297: Museums & Technology The Online Museum Dana Allen-Greil New Media Project Manager National Museum of American History 03/27/08

2. Online Collections

  • If visitors can access our digital collections using the Internet,will they still come to the museum in person ?
  • If people can look at pictures of beaches online,will they still vacation in Florida?

Source: Paul F. Marty, "Museum Websites and Museum Visitors: Before and After the Museum Visit.2007.Photo (Top): Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum. 3. Physical and Virtual VisitsComplement Each Other

  • A 2005 study found that:
    • 70% of museum visitors specificallylook for online information prior to a museum visit
    • 57% say the information they found onlineincreased their desire to visitthe museum in person.
  • Online visitors use museum Web sites to:
  • plan visits to physical museums
  • learn more about museums after a visit

Source: Paul F. Marty, "Museum Websites and Museum Visitors: Before and After the Museum Visit.2007. Chart: Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS),InterConnections: A National Study of Users and Potential Users of Online Information . 2008. Chart: The number of remote online visits is positively correlated with the number of in-person visits to museums and public libraries. (2007) 4. Who is on a Web site development team?

  • Some team members will bein-house , others may becontractedor beexternalpartners.
    • Curators / subject matter expert
    • Educators / interpretive planner
    • Project manager
    • Exhibition designer
    • Public affairs / marketing
    • Web staff
      • Designers
      • Developers/ programmers
      • Project manager
      • Writer/editor
    • Sponsors / Partners
    • Colleagues at other institutions

5. Process

    • 0.RFP (Request for Proposals)
    • Discovery
      • Goals
      • Assets
      • Audience
      • Scope
      • Wireframes/ information architecture
    • Design
    • Directions (~3)
    • Homepage
    • Other key pages
    • Interaction design (i.e., what would the steps be for a user to do x activity)
    • Develop
    • Programming and database development
    • Production (images, animations, etc.)
    • Deploy
    • Beta test
    • Launch!
    • 5.Maintenance
    • Site documentation
    • Original graphics files

6. Budget

    • Call your colleagues for estimates on similar projects
    • Work your Web budget into project budgets (e.g., exhibitions, partnerships)
    • Cost keeps going up
    • Discounts / partial pro bono
    • Dont forget maintenance and staffing!
    • Audio/video/image rights

7. Content, content, content

    • Tell a good story and people will use the site
    • Sometimes sites that arent high-design are still very popular (e.g.,Between a Rock and a Hard Place )
    • Web sites live a long time, keep that in mind when developing contentand watch your traffic grow over time.

8. Challenges

  • Evaluation
    • It is very hard to gain knowledge about your online visitors
      • Who are they
      • Why are they coming / what do they want from you
      • How often do they come
  • Sustainability
    • Once you build it, they will come and then you have to keep it updated and working!
      • Content
      • Technology
      • Someone to pay attention to it
  • Funding
    • Often tied to exhibition sponsors
    • Harder to fun wider-reaching projects
    • Difficult to fund the staff you need
  • Accessibility
    • New technologies offer new opportunities but also new barriers for those with disabilities
    • Neither assistive technology nor technology-specific accessibility standards are keeping pace

9. Technology Planning: Questions to Consider

  • Whoneeds to be at the table?
      • Skills (content expertise, audience evaluation, interpretive planning, user interface design)
      • Departments (curatorial, education, exhibitions, technology)
      • Users!
  • Which goalsare most important?
  • What problemare you solving?
  • Who is the projectsupposed to serve ?Is target audience the same online as it is in other media?
  • How will youmeasure outcomes ?
  • Whatexpectationsdo you and your target audience have for look & feel, aesthetics, navigation, usability?
  • Did this start as a Web idea or is it anadaptationof another type of project (e.g., PR, exhibition, book, etc.)?How will youtranslateit for online media?

10. Technology Planning: Good Practices

  • Bring all thestakeholdersinto key decisions (including users).
    • Design user-centered sites not institution-centered sites
  • Interpretive planningshould include technology and media strategies.
    • Integration throughout planning, content development, and design of exhibitions.Technology should not be segregated from other types of messaging media.
  • Berealistic .Museums have limited resources (staff, time, funding).What will give you the best return on investment (ROI)?
  • Plan forsustainability .
    • Who will maintain media component(s)?How will maintenance be funded?
    • How will it be updated over time (content/hardware/other technology)?
  • Collaborate .
    • With vendors
    • Educators
    • Other institutions
    • Users

For more about ROI, see: Leonard Steinback, Analyzing Return on Investment: Process of Champions, inThe Digital Museum .American Association of Museums, 2007. 11. What makes the Web special

  • What can you do online that you can't do in the physical museum?
    • Strengths of online media
      • Manipulation of artifacts
      • Getting up close/ details
      • Not restricted by time/place
      • Navigate any way you want to
    • Weaknesses

12. Integration with other museum functions

  • Exhibitions & collections
  • Communications strategies
    • PR
    • Email communications
  • Fundraising
  • Other publishing media (e.g., print calendars, museum signage)
  • HR, interns, volunteers
  • Visitor services

13. Resources

    • Museum Computer Network (mcn-l)
    • Museums Computers Group (
    • AAM Media and Technology Committee
    • Museums and the Web

14. SHOW AND TELL 15. Online Exhibitions

    • Multiple ways to navigate content
      • America on the Move
      •, Collection, Themes)