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Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum

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In this paper, we analyse trends of the first wave of museum websites (from the 1990s to the early 2000s) to understand how the characteristics of the Internet (specifically the World Wide Web), of museum staff, and museum audiences shaped the adoption of technology and new forms of participation and what they can tell us about engagement for museums of the future. The early development of online museum resources parallels the development of the EVA conference, which was establishing itself at a similar time.
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Proceedings of EVA London 2020.
1
Museum Websites of the First Wave:
The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia
Stefania Boiano
InvisibleStudio Ltd
InvisibleStudio Ltd
London, UK
London, UK
giuliano.gaia@invisiblestudio.net
stefania.boiano@invisiblestudio.net
Jonathan P. Bowen
Ann Borda
London South Bank University
University of Melbourne
London, UK
Melbourne, Australia
jonathan.bowen@lsbu.ac.uk
aborda@unimelb.edu.au
In this paper, we analyse trends of the first wave of museum websites (from the 1990s to the early
2000s) to understand how the characteristics of the Internet (specifically the World Wide Web), of
museum staff, and museum audiences shaped the adoption of technology and new forms of
participation and what they can tell us about engagement for museums of the future. The early
development of online museum resources parallels the development of the EVA conference, which
was establishing itself at a similar time.
Museum collections. Museum websites. Digital history. Digital preservation. Open source. Virtual museums.
1. INTRODUCTION
The first acknowledged website, The WWW Project
(Berners-Lee et al. 1991a) was officially published
online in 1991, but it is more challenging to trace
the first museum website. Notwithstanding, it
seems museums were reasonably quick to
experiment with the Internet as a means of
conveying visitor and collections information.
Especially science and technology museums
initiated an early presence online.
This first wave of online museums was also
intrinsically associated with advances in web
technologies, open source and open access,
focusing on information systems (e.g., published
databases) and hyperlinking content, comparable
to the exploration of machine learning by museums
of the present day. A seminal publication of the
period, The Wired Museum (Jones-Garmil 1997),
was already prescient in how technology might
enable museums to accomplish interactions with
content and audience engagement. But it also
highlighted potential issues relevant today, such as
content overload and lack of quality control.
In the same book (Jones-Garmil 1997), George
MacDonald and Stephen Alsford provided insights
into the future of digital information systems in
museums based on their experience at the
Canadian Museum of Civilisation. They speculated
about the potential for the rise of the “Meta-
Museum” a museum that exists solely in
cyberspace.
Within this context, the proposed paper aims to
delve into this critical period of opportunity and
adoption of a virtual presence and ways in which
these pioneers became part of the mainstream and
influenced museum website developments over the
coming decades.
2. EXAMPLES OF EARLY MUSEUM WEBSITES
“It was fun to be experimenting with a new
medium. I can still remember the feeling I had
when I realized that our online audience
exceeded our physical audience.” (Rob Semper
about the early years of the Exploratorium
website).
The first World Wide Web site (still available under
http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html)
was published by Tim Berners-Lee on 6 August
1991 (Internet Live Stats 2020). We have to wait
until 1995 to see a real web explosion; according to
Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia, Stefania Boiano, Jonathan P. Bowen & Ann Borda
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Internet Live Stats (2020), there were only 10
websites in 1992 and 130 in 1993; in 1994 the
number reached 2,738 and 23,500 in 1995.
Understanding which the first museum website was
is quite difficult. According to David Polly, creator
with Rob Guralnick of the first version of the
University of California Museum of Paleontology
(UCMP), launched in August 1993 (Smith 2019).
“As best as I remember, two museums beat us
to the WWW: Honolulu Community College and
the Smithsonian. HCC was not really a museum,
but they put up a few nice pages about
dinosaurs, and the Smithsonian simply
converted their gopher picture server to HTML. I
think Smithsonian did their gopher-to-web
conversion before HCC came online. We were
the first museum with extensive purpose-
designed web exhibits.” (Polly 2020).
After the UCMP came the Exploratorium of San
Francisco (see Figure 1), as Rob Semper
remembers (Semper 2020):
“When we launched our website on December
15, 1993, we could see about 600 websites
(overall in the web). One was the UC Berkeley’s
Museum of Paleontology which had a site with
some text and photos posted. One was the
Library of Congress in Washington DC which
was hosting an exhibit ROME REBORN: THE
VATICAN LIBRARY & RENAISSANCE
CULTURE which had an online version.
https://www.ibiblio.org/expo/vatican.exhibit/exhib
it/About.html. We did not see any others.”
Figure 1: The home page of the Exploratorium website
in April 1994 (courtesy Rob Semper).
In order to trace a better history of the first museum
websites, we also conducted a brief research on
the museum and technology resources of the time,
Museum Computer Network and Archives and
Museum Informatics, both from the USA and often
collaborating. The first mention of the WWW in
Museum Computer Network conferences appear to
be some sessions chaired by David Bridge (see
Figure 2), a digital pioneer at the Smithsonian, who
first introduced the upcoming Web and the new
browser called Mosaic at the MCN/CIDOC
conference in Washington, D.C. in 1994 (Samis
2020). We have found a brief report about the
conference (Bearman 1994) mentioning the
“Mosaic applications” of the University of California
Museum of Paleontology.
Figure 2: The presentation of one of the workshops by
David Bridge at the 1994 MCN Conference (courtesy of
Smithsonian Archives).
A note from Peter Samis of SFMOMA regarding the
same sessions shows us all the interest that the
new medium was beginning to foster in the
museum community (Samis 2020):
“There is a moment of palpable excitement in my
notes from the MCN ‘94 Conference, held in the
first days of September in Washington, D.C.
Amidst reports on VR and VRML, MUDs, MOOs,
and interactive databases, one session stands
out in retrospect as being more equal than
others: BIRTH OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB.
David Bridge of the Smithsonian had the good
fortune to be the emissary, announcing that as
of November 1993, there was finally “a good
client” for the client/server technology that had
been developed by CERN in Switzerland:
MOSAIC.”
He concluded his announcement with an inclusive
mandate meant to be an invitation (Samis 2020):
“We’re defining this medium—what works and what
doesn’t.” In a word, stay tuned—and get involved!”
We think it is important to notice that the World
Wide Web success was linked, in this first
references, to the availability of a suitable browser,
Mosaic, easy to install and use, working on
Windows and capable of showing good quality
images. It was the first browser able, in
perspective, to open the web to the masses. It is
significant, in our opinion, that the University of
California Museum of Paleontology website was
described a “Mosaic application” rather than a
Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia, Stefania Boiano, Jonathan P. Bowen & Ann Borda
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website at the 1994 MCN/CIDOC conference
(Bearman 1994).
Science museums seem to have been at the head
of the first web wave (Bowen et al. 2005),
compared with, for example, art and history
museums. According to Semper (2020):
“Part of the role of science museums is to
present the ideas and the process of science
and technology as well as authentic artifacts of
science and therefore they are not so primally
focused on the authentic and singular object like
art museums. There was the early concern of
rights ownership and reproductive authenticity in
the art museum world. Also the science museum
staff had technical backgrounds.”
It is worth noting that the first museums to establish
a web presence were both near the Silicon Valley
a certain degree of osmosis can be expected
between a thriving tech sector and the museums
which are geographically near that area.
A notable exception to the “California-first” rule was
the Smithsonian, which was quick in experimenting
a web presence, for example with the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory website in 1993, and
launched a comprehensive website for all its
museums in 1995, in the presence of the then US
Speaker of the House, Newt Gringrich. This was
probably the first major launch of a museum
website (Smithsonian 2020).
Bowen et al. (1998) write that the Natural History
Museum in London was the first museum in the UK
to have its own web server on the academic
JANET network (due to the proximity of Imperial
College London), launched in 1994. The London
Science Museum followed shortly afterwards. The
Museum of the History of Science in Oxford
launched its website in 1995.
A paper of 1995, aptly titled Is Anybody Out There?
(museums, audiences and the World Wide Web)
(Gordon 1995) makes a very interesting read in
order to get the challenges and opportunity felt by
the staff facing with venturing on the WWW for the
first time. In the paper Sue Gordon, the Information
Systems Services Manager of National Museum of
Science and Industry, recalls being asked in
September 1994 to open a website. Gordon
describes the challenges of implementing a website
in a pre-Internet organization, but at the same time
recognises the potential of the web for a museum,
from e-commerce to video streaming.
The first museum websites suffered heavy
technical limitations in terms of limited bandwidth,
absence of HTML authoring tools and browser
limitations; for example personalised content was
not possible before the introduction of cookies by
Netscape, nor it was possible to design complex
layouts before the invention of table-based web
pages. Rob Semper recalls that on the
Exploratorium website “We had to invent things as
we went along including webcasting before video
on the web was possible.” (Semper 2020).
At the same time, the early web offered some good
opportunities, due to the lack of competition. For
example, it was easy to get good organic results on
search engines: “We rode the Google organic
search wagon which meant we did not need to
develop a strong independent marketing enterprise,
something that is imperative today.” (Semper
2020). Opening a website soon became a good
public-relations move; for example, the opening of
the Science Museum of Milan website together with
an Internet Lab for schools was featured on all
Italian major newspapers in 1998.
3. THE RISE OF THE “VIRTUAL MUSEUMS”
Examining the papers of the first Museums and the
Web conference held in Los Angeles in 1997
(http://www.museweb.net/bibliography/?by=1997),
it can be noted that museums were enthusiastically
embracing the new medium, opening “virtual
museums” online, reaching towards schools and
experimenting with online multimedia, for example
using QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR)
(Quackenbush et al. 1997).
The term “virtual” and “virtual museum” (Bowen
2000) is extensively used in the papers from that
conference:
“Virtual Visitor Experience and Use.”
“The Virtual Library Museums Pages (VLmp):
Whence and Whither?” (Bowen 1997b)
“Building a Virtual Museum Community.”
“Virtual Museums: How to Make Digital
Information Child-Friendly.”
“QuickTime Virtual Reality and Museums on the
Internet.”
“Partners, Profiles, and the Public: Building a
Virtual Museum Community.”
“Thinking Critically about Virtual Museums.”
The concept of “virtual” was key of the digital
development of those years, probably descending
from the hype about the first wave of Virtual Reality
applications of the late 1980s to the early 1990s.
The WWW appeared as yet another way to “mirror”
the physical reality in the digital world. The two
realities appeared as different worlds in competition
between themselves rather than a single, mixed
Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia, Stefania Boiano, Jonathan P. Bowen & Ann Borda
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reality as it is perceived today. We should bear in
mind, though, that before the diffusion of the
smartphone the mixing of real and digital
dimensions of life was much more difficult (Bowen
& Giannini 2014).
Viewing the use of the term “virtual museums” in
books using the Google Books Ngram Viewer
(https://books.google.com/ngrams), we can see
that the phrase started use around the birth of the
web and peaked in 1998 (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Use of the term “virtual museum” in books,
19882008 (Google Books Ngram Viewer).
Opening a museum website in the 1990s meant for
an institution to face the conceptual problem of the
virtual museum, as reported in this paper by
Giuliano Gaia presented at the Museums and the
Web conference (Gaia 1999):
“Like every Museum deciding to open a website,
we found ourselves facing the dilemma “virtual
visit or not?”. This problem is quite well pointed
out in a recent Italian publication (Forte et al.
1998), which can be summarized as follows:
There are three ways of making a virtual
museum:
1. “simulated museum”, trying to re-create the
experience of visiting the actual museum
(virtual tours, and so on) without adding
any information; according to this approach,
to visit the museum or to visit the website
should be the same.
2. “information”: the website is an instrument
to use before or after the visit; it offers a lot
of information not available at the actual
museum. According to the authors, this one
is often the European way of thinking a web
museum.
3. The real “virtual museum”, a website in
many parts independent from the actual
museum, with many sections and
exhibitions residing only on the net. This
kind of virtual museum is not narrowly
focused on the actual museum. This seems
to be the American way of thinking.
At the Science Museum of Milan [see Figure 4[
we decided to put ourselves between the
second and the third approach we were not
trying to simulate any real visit, but we wanted
the website as an instrument to prepare and
deepen the actual visit while we had also
some sections independent from the actual
museum.”
Figure 4: The 1999 home page of the Science Museum
of Milan clearly shows the deep relationship between the
“Real” and “Virtual” Museum.
This stress on the notion of virtuality partially
explains why art museums were somewhat more
hesitant in opening their websites. As noted
previously by Rob Semper, the problem of image
copyrights and “aura” are much more important for
art museums than for other kinds of museums.
This, coupled with a lack of technical staff, meant
that many art museums waited to open their official
websites, leaving a void on the web. This empty
area was often occupied by single enthusiasts who
created their own “virtual museums” publishing
online images of the artworks without the museum
consent or even knowledge. The most famous case
is the Louvre, which was anticipated online in 1994
by a virtual museum called the WebLouvre.
The WebLouvre was founded by the young French
web developer Nicholas Pioch. Only in 1995 did the
Louvre launch its official website (Renoux 2018;
InvisibleStudio 2019) and insisted that Pioch
remove the term “Louvre” from his website, so he
changed the name from the WebLouvre to the
WebMuseum, which is still available online today
(https://www.ibiblio.org/wm/).
The creation of virtual museums highlights also the
possibility for individuals to change the power
relationship with the museum: for the first time,
users could download and manipulate digital
images of the artworks and be competitors of the
museums in a media space. This was seen as
terrifying by some museum professionals, but a
great educational and cultural opportunity by
others. For example, Witcomb (1997) described the
new electronic age as an opportunity to end the
equation Museum-Mausoleum and Walsh (1997)
advocated:
Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia, Stefania Boiano, Jonathan P. Bowen & Ann Borda
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“Using the interactive potentials of the web to
change the one-way flow of information from art
museum to visitor to a two-way flow which also
moves from visitor to museum” [and] “Infusing
the orientation towards constant change into the
art museum so that the web helps the art
museum to reinvent itself.
The concept of virtual museum survived through
the evolution of the web; for example, the Google
Arts&Culture Project was born in 2011 as a way to
“build a museum of museums” and empower users
to create their own “virtual museums” (Sood 2011).
The growth of online museums in the 1990s was
international and exponential as evidenced in the
directory of the Virtual Library museums pages
(VLmp), set up in 1994 (Bowen 1997a; 1997b). The
VLmp was part of the WWW Virtual Library and
supported by the International Council of Museums
(ICOM). The directory was split by country, with
individual maintainers for each country (Bowen
2002).
4. VIRTUAL LIBRARY MUSEUMS PAGES
This section discusses the development of the
Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp) online
directory of museums, initiated by Jonathan Bowen
in 1994 as part of the WWW Virtual Library.
I first accessed the web through a Mosaic browser
on a Sun workstation running the X Window
System (X11) at Oxford University in about 1993,
linked to the Internet via the UK academic network
JANET. At the time it was very slow to access
American websites from Europe, with a
transatlantic link from the United Kingdom of
around 10Mbps, the equivalent of a slow ethernet
connection linking two continents. However, access
speeds improved, especially for those of us at
universities lucky enough not to have to use a
modem and telephone line for online access, and it
was enough to convince me to move from the
SunOS operating system with no web browser to
X-Windows.
I noticed a few museum-related websites such as
information from the University of California
Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley, set up in
1993 with support from Sun Microsystems
(https://ucmp.berkeley.edu; Smith 2019). I also
noticed the Virtual Library online, initiated by Tim
Berners-Lee, Arthur Secret, and others to act as an
early gateway directory for the web
(http://www.vlib.org; Berners-Lee 1991b). At the
time, it was very difficult to search the web without
such a directory of links to web-based resources.
Database searching of the web only really started
with widespread use in 1995, with the advent of
AltaVista, etc.
The WWW Virtual Library did not include a section
on museums when I first viewed it and volunteers
were encouraged to create Virtual Library sections
on their own websites and request for these to be
linked from the central WWW VL website. I was in
the lucky position to have access to the webserver
at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory,
where I worked as a Research Officer at the time.
Being at a university, I was also fortunate to have
free rein in placing material online. So, in addition
to material associated with my more official work in
computer science, I also create a directory of links
to online museum resources. On 16 June 1994, I
sent an email to Arthur Secret at CERN with the
URL for a web page at Oxford, offering to maintain
the entry for “Museums” in the WWW Virtual
Library (Bowen 2010).
On 10 March 1995, I published my first article
concerning online museums in the Times Higher
Education Supplement (Bowen 1995a). On 10 May
1995, there was a highly significant early meeting
about museums and the web entitled Museum
Collections and the Information Superhighway, held
at the Science Museum in London, and organised
by the curator John Griffiths and others at the
museum (see Figure 5). Most presentations were
on future museum activities concerning the web,
but I was able to present statistics on accesses to
the “Virtual Library museums pages” (VLmp) at
Oxford, which had already reached around a
thousand accesses a day to the main page by this
time (Bowen 1995b).
Figure 5: Diary entry for the Museum Collections and the
Information Superhighway meeting followed by a
Museums Computer Group meeting on the Internet and
the web, at the Science Museum, London,
1011 May 1995 (courtesy Jonathan Bowen).
In June 1995, I decided to experiment with a purely
online virtual museum” and created a “Virtual
Museum of Computing” (VMoC), which I
incorporated to be part of VLmp (Bowen 1996b).
The site’s main page attracted a hundred hits a day
within a week or so (Bowen 2010). It included
various online “galleries”, including a resource on
the computing pioneer Alan Turing, curated by the
Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia, Stefania Boiano, Jonathan P. Bowen & Ann Borda
6
Oxford-based mathematician and definitive Turing
biographer, Andrew Hodges (Bowen et al. 2005).
On 27 July 1995, I presented my first paper at the
EVA London conference, as part of a panel session
moderated by Jim Hemsley, concerning VLmp, and
published that October in a journal version (Bowen
1995c). Earlier I had contacted the Museums
Journal with information on the exciting
opportunities on the web for museums, but with no
initial response. However, in August 1995, an
article on VLmp appeared in the Museums Journal
after the journal eventually contacted me (Bowen
1995d).
In 1996, the International Council of Museums
(ICOM) adopted VLmp as its official online
museums directory and hosted the resource on its
own website (Bowen 1996a). Figure 6 shows the
main VLmp page on the ICOM website in 1997 and
Figure 7 show the same page in 2006.
Figure 6: VLmp main page on the ICOM website in
1997. (Archived on Archive.org, 24 June 1997.)
Gradually the VLmp resource was mirrored at
several sites around the world, including at the
Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). In
addition, museum website lists for a number of
individual countries were maintained by museum
organizations and individuals, including first by
CHIN in Canada. The United Kingdom list of
museums was maintained by the Museums
Documentation Association (MDA).
The countries with their own separately maintained
entries can be seen in Figure 7. It is interesting to
note both the countries and continents that were
involved as well as those that were not involved.
This is left as an exercise for the reader! At its
height, about 20 people around the world were
involved with the maintenance of VLmp.
Figure 7: VLmp main page on the ICOM website in
2006. (Archived on Archive.org, 11 November 2010.)
In due course, the improvement in web searching
facilities, especially through Google, and the
improvement of other more general information
sites, especially Wikipedia (Bowen and Angus
2006), made the VLmp and Virtual Library resource
redundant, although VLmp still exists on a wiki site
(https://museums.fandom.com).
5. CONCLUSION
By observing the first, pioneering museum websites
a few considerations arise. The first one is that the
browser technical features heavily influenced the
shape and size of the earlier experimentations. The
emergence of usable browser like Mosaic and
Netscape was key in enlarging the web audience
and the possibility for museums to embrace the
web as a really promising medium. This means that
museums should monitor emerging technologies,
but only when those technologies become highly
usable should a museum invest its limited
resources on them.
The second consideration is that the professional
conferences played an important part in spreading
the knowledge of the web. Many of the protagonists
got their first glimpse of the web from a workshop
or a conference session, and published their first
results in conferences, inspiring others to follow
their footsteps. Even if today conferences suffer the
competition of the online resources, their role in
keeping museum professionals updated and
inspired should not be downplayed.
The third consideration is about the enthusiasm
with which the early adopters saw a new world
opening in front of themselves. They could see the
risks and challenges but were nonetheless thrilled
Museum Websites of the First Wave: The rise of the virtual museum
Giuliano Gaia, Stefania Boiano, Jonathan P. Bowen & Ann Borda
7
by the exciting new opportunities opening in front of
them, not only in technological terms but also as a
way to change the general relationship between the
museum and their visitors, as well as society in
general. It would be very interesting to research if
and how this change happened in practice, but this
is beyond the scope of the present paper.
Finally, by observing how many papers were
devoted to soon-to-be-dead technologies like CD-
ROMs in the years soon after the web was
invented, a question arises as to which new
technologies are being developed that will shape
our future. What is the next big thing around the
corner that we are ignoring right now?
The authors hope that these observations on
developments with respect to museums online, at a
time when the EVA London and other conferences
were establishing themselves, may help current
developers in planning for the future, as museums
become an increasing part of our “digital culture”
(Giannini & Bowen 2019).
Acknowledgements
Many thanks to Rob Semper, Peter Samis, Dave
Polly, Rob Guralnick, Eric Longo, and Tad
Bennicoff, for their kind help during the writing of
this paper. Jonathan Bowen is grateful to
Museophile Limited for funding. The web and the
EVA conferences are around 30 years old and the
authors are thankful for both in aiding and shaping
their research.
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... Nowadays, virtual museums can be of various types [4] and are a feasible resource for disseminating content on the network [5]. In the beginning, the digitization of museums consisted of photographing the elements and posting those images with their descriptions on the network [6]. Later on, virtual museums appeared, which were digitizations of an already existing space. ...
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Museums have been the main centers for the dissemination of cultural heritage throughout history. In recent years, they have been increasingly digitizing their content, so that it is now common for each museum to have free digital content available on the Web. This can be photographs of the works with detailed information or even objects created in three dimensions. It is also common to find virtual museums, which might be a representation of an existing museum that has been digitized or a museum created only in digital format. This paper describes the creation of a virtual museum of Spanish clothing from the 16th century, one that exists only in digital format, accessible from a computer or digital tablet. In order to create the museum, various documentation and drawings or pictures of the clothing of that time were studied. The costumes were then created in a specialized 3D costume-modeling program called Marvelous Designer. A 3D model of the exhibition hall was created in Blender, and finally, everything was assembled in the Unity videogame engine, where the interactive part was also added, allowing the virtual visitors to walk through the hall as if they were visiting a real museum.
... Another act of generosity by Tim Berners-Lee (1999, p. 59) was the establishment of the Virtual Library in the early 1990s with his colleague Arthur Secret, to help with the navigation of the web before search engines became well-established. This included early information on and links to online museum resources in the Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp), an international; collaborative volunteer effort (Bowen 1995a;1995b;Gaia et al. 2020). VLmp itself included the Virtual Museum of Computing (VMoC), which linked to an Alan Turing home page (https://www.turing.org.uk) by Andrew Hodges, the definitive biographer of Alan Turing (Hodges 1983). ...
... More recently, in the mid-1990s, museums started to realise the opportunities provided by digital culture on the World Wide Web (Bowen 1995a;1995b;Gaia et al. 2020). Online provision by museums has increased, with collaboration between museums and other heritage organisations enabling more and more synergistic collections of material online . ...
... In 1994, I had established the Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp), a directory of museums with online web resources (Bowen 1995a;1995b). This attracted the attention of some technology-oriented personnel in the museum world involved with early museum websites (Gaia et al. 2020) as they discovered the resource (Bowen 1995c), including Jim Hemsley, the organiser of the EVA London conference. He invited me to a panel session at the EVA'95 London conference on the WWW and museums/libraries (see Figures 1 and 4). ...
... With the advent of the Internet, and more specifically the World Web Wide, the opportunity for fast international communication was greatly enhanced, and museums began to take advantage of the possibility of increasing their reach. Initially communication was largely one-way, with museums providing websites and "virtual museum" experiences (Gaia et al. 2020). As museums gained more experience, they developed more interaction with their online communities (Beler et al. 2004;Giannini & Bowen 2019, Part V Audiences). ...
... In 1994, I had established the Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp), a directory of museums with online web resources (Bowen 1995a;1995b). This attracted the attention of some technology-oriented personnel in the museum world involved with early museum websites (Gaia et al. 2020) as they discovered the resource (Bowen 1995c), including Jim Hemsley, the organiser of the EVA London conference. He invited me to a panel session at the EVA'95 London conference on the WWW and museums/libraries (see Figures 1 and 4). ...
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Science museums have embraced the technology of the Web to present their resources online. The nature of the technology naturally fits with the ethos of science. This chapter surveys the history, development and features of a number of contrasting pioneering museum Web sites in the field of science that have been early adopters of the technology. This includes case studies of Web sites associated with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, the Science Museum in London and the completely virtual Alan Turing Home Page. The purpose is to demonstrate a diverse set of successful scientifically-oriented Web sites related to science museums and the history of science, giving an insight into Web developments in this area over the past decade.
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The World Wide Web (WWW) has been expanding exponentially since it was launched. It provides a unifying way to navigate and present information around the world in seconds using the Internet computer network. Many types of organization have been caught up in the revolution and are struggling to cope with the effects and keep pace with the development of the technology. One such community is that of museums. This paper presents the way museums are currently using the Web internationally, and how their use could develop in the future. Included is a description of the Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp), a leading directory of on-line museums, recently adopted by the International Council of Museums. Some of the `virtual' visitor statistics are also presented and discussed.
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Museums have been discovering the Internet over the past few years like many other information provision sectors. Rather uniquely, they span both educational and commercial sectors, with a concentration of the original object even in this virtual world. The author has set up and developed the Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp) since 1994, an online international distributed museum directory. This is part of the WWW Virtual Library and is also supported by the International Council of Museums (ICOM). The directory is probably still the foremost such resource, but commercial pressures are building, and the resource must develop to ensure its long-term future. This paper explores the important developments so far, the current situation especially with regard to automatically collected virtual visitor statistics, and possible future directions for the VLmp directory and related resources.
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