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Archives & Museum Informatics

ARTS, SCIENCE & HISTORY ON-LINE: Examples of successful collaborations between an e-learning firm and non-profit organizations

Chuck Barger, Interactive Knowledge, Inc., USA


This presentation will focus on the way non-profit organizations can use the web for education, information dissemination and promotion. Museums, arts and science organizations, libraries and other cultural institutions are striving to create new and innovative ways to fulfill their mission using the Internet. The presentation will describe a number of case studies and show examples of several successful collaborations between an e-learning company and several cultural institutions.

Case studies will include: Developing a web site that uses objects from a museum's collection of traditional crafts to enhance the public school social studies curriculum; Developing a web site that uses historical photographs, artifacts, oral histories and maps to tell the story of the an African American community in Charlotte, NC.; Developing a web site that for a museum-sponsored project that is (1) archival, (2) educational, and (3) promotional; Developing a web site that provides information about arts, science, and heritage events for organizations affiliated with the Arts & Science Council; Using the Internet to provide a pre-tour, classroom orientation to a museum exhibit of pre-Columbian art


The traditional educational process requires school buildings, teachers, textbooks and students. The possibilities within this traditional structure are well documented. Whether this process leads to the most effective education has been subject to endless research and debate. Non-traditional educational institutions such as libraries and museums as well as extra-curricular groups like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have always supplemented traditional education by using more field-based, experiential techniques. These non-traditional institutions have found that many of their programs can be enriched or expanded by developing a well-designed, customized Internet component.

Interactive Knowledge, an e-learning company based in Charlotte has partnered with a number of local and national non-profit organizations to create innovative programs that help meet their institutional education goals.

Following are several brief case studies that describe these projects.

  • Case study 1 ˝ Developing a web site that uses objects from a museum's collection of traditional crafts to enhance the public school social studies curriculum
  • Case study 2 ˝ Developing a web site that uses historical photographs, artifacts, oral histories and maps to tell the story of the an African American community in Charlotte, NC.
  • Case study 3 ˝ Developing a web site that for a museum-sponsored project that is (1) archival, (2) educational, and (3) promotional
  • Case study 4 ˝ Developing a web site that provides information about arts, science, and heritage events for organizations affiliated with the Arts & Science Council
  • Case study 5 ˝ Using the Internet to provide a pre-tour, classroom orientation to a museum exhibit of pre-Columbian art

CASE STUDY 1 ˝ Developing a web site that uses objects from a museum's collection to enhance the 4th grade NC social studies curriculum


Crafting´NorthCarolina web site

Web address


Mint Museum of Art

Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Charlotte, NC


4th grade students in North Carolina schools

Design task

Develop a web site that integrates North CarolinaÝs rich heritage of handmade arts and crafts into the social studies curriculum of 4th grade students.

Design requirements

  • Site needs to be available to classroom throughout the state, on a variety of hardware and methods of Internet access
  • Content needs to reinforce the material in the 4th grade social studies curriculum
  • Site needs to be engaging to 4th graders
  • Site needs to have material that helps teachers see how site can be integrated in curriculum
  • Objects / images in site need to be created by NC craft artist and be a part of the Mint's permanent collection

Special Features

FunSheets ˝ Each section of the web site contains a printable worksheet that students can use with the activity. Fun Sheets include activities, quizzes, checklists and guides.

Teacher section ˝ A portion of the site is devoted to providing material to teachers on how to use this site in the classroom. Includes activity rationale, suggestions, and lesson plans.

PROJECT DETAILS ˝ Case Study 1: Crafting´NorthCarolina

What is it? Crafting´NorthCarolina is an interactive, multimedia web site designed for fourth graders studying North Carolina history. This project focuses on the Mint Museum of Craft + DesignÝs collection of North Carolina crafts and art, using these materials as a springboard for lessons in history. The web site combines video, audio, photographs and a wide variety of interactive exercise. Students use this site to better understand how utilitarian objects can tell the story of how people lived.

How was it developed? ˝ Crafting´NorthCarolina is a large-scale web site that was developed over a two-year period. The project began with a series of planning meetings convened by the Mint Museum of Art's Education Department. The team included Mint curatorial staff, web developers and elementary school social studies and art teachers. This group drafted the instructional goals of the project and agreed on the most important aspects of the 4th grade North Carolina history curriculum that could be enhanced by an interactive web site. Once the goals were set, the instructional design, content and graphic look of the site were developed by the MuseumÝs education staff and the web developer. After the site was designed, it was tested in several classroom before being rolled out to the state.

What's included in the site? ˝ The Crafting.NorthCarolina web site is organized into the following seven sections:

1. Early North Carolina ˝ The arts and crafts of North Carolina precede the arrival of white settlers. The Mint Museum has collected ancient artifacts as well as the earliest art created by travelers to the New World. This section of the web site is divided into three areas.

  • Native Americans ˝ A look at the crafts and cultures of Native Americans who inhabited North Carolina before the arrival of European settlers
  • Explorers ˝ Some of the early art generated as part of the exploration of the New World
  • Mapmakers ˝ An introduction to the types and variety of maps of North Carolina that were produced during the European settlement of the region

2. 250 Years of Clay ˝ Crafts are defined as useful objects that have been created with such care and precision as to become works of art. This section of the web site follows the progression of techniques and uses of pottery from 1750 through the present. Students are introduced to four tour guides who demonstrate both the utilitarian and aesthetic uses of pottery during four distinct eras:

  • 1750-1850: Pottery in Colonial NC
  • 1860-1900: Pottery During and After the Civil War
  • 1900-1940: Hand Made vs. Machine Made
  • 1940 ˝ Today: Pottery as Art

3. WhatÝs the Use? ˝ This section concentrates on the important uses of a wide variety of pottery and other craft objects that have been replaced over the years by modern conveniences. This section is organized into two interactive games:

  • The FarmerÝs Kitchen ˝ Students are asked to match modern objects found in the kitchen with objects a farmerÝs family would have used 200 years ago.
  • ŰRound the House ˝ Students are asked to guess the uses of fifteen very peculiar pottery items that have fallen out of use in modern America

4. From the Land ˝ One important reason why North Carolina has always been home to artists and craftspeople is the wealth of raw materials available to work with. This section looks at the natural resources available to North Carolina artists and the products that have been created from them. This very informative and interactive activity asks students to find specific objects hidden in four collages ˝ one for each of the following materials: cotton, wood, clay, and animals.

5. Making Pots ˝ North Carolina has a long tradition of families who have passed their craft from one generation to the next. In this section, students meet Travis Owen, a sixth grader and sixth generation potter from Seagrove, North Carolina. Travis describes (with video stills and audio) the eight basic steps of making a pot and introduces the work of his family spanning back to the early 1800s.

  1. LetÝs Go! ˝ This section of the site allows students to visit the studios of four

North Carolina craft-artists and participate in a tour of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design lead by ten year old student. Each the artist was interviewed and photographed in and around his or her studio for this web site. Artist were interviewed about what they were like as 4th graders and how they became interested in the arts. Students get a chance to look around the place and hear from the artists what it is like to create art that has been purchased by institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Renwick Gallery and the Mint Museum of Craft + Design. Tour stops include:

  • Cynthia Bringle ˝ A master contemporary potter working in Penland, North Carolina
  • Billie Ruth Suddeth ˝ A world-renowned basket maker working near Penland, North Carolina
  • Stoney Lamar ˝ A master craftsman and wood sculptor working in Saluda, North Carolina
  • Sid Luck - A fifth-generation traditional potter working in Seagrove, North Carolina
  • The Mint Museum of Craft + Design ˝ Ten year old students describe works of art made from glass, wood, fiber, metal.

7. Look @ Gallery ˝ Students are always inspired by the arts and crafts they see while visiting museums and galleries. Viewing and experiencing art brings about a desire to create art. This section follows students who get their chance to learn more about art from North Carolina artists and then make their own. Photo documentaries follow craft-artists as they instruct students on how to make face jugs, hand-built clay animals, and create environmental drawings. A gallery of student work is included. Lessons plans for each experience are provided in the teacher section of the site.

CASE STUDY 2 ˝ Developing a web site that uses historical photographs, artifacts, oral histories and maps to tell the story of the African American community in Charlotte, NC.


The African American Album Vol. 2 web site

Web address


The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, NC


General public

Design task

In 1990 the PLCMC commissioned a book, the African American Album, to document and celebrate the local African American heritage from the 1880 to World War II. In 1996 the library decided to create a CD-ROM to tell the modern story (African American Album, Vol. II.) In 1999 the multimedia material was reworked into a web site so the rich content could be more accessible to the public.

Design requirements

  • Tell a riveting story of life in the African American community in a mid-sized Southern city from World War II to the present using oral histories, historic documents, photographs and archival film and video.
  • Must be simple to operate while offering a wide variety of topics for the user to explore. Since the audience includes middle and high school aged children as well as adults, the program must be visually interesting and rich with factual content.
  • The program must include a broad portrayal of social issues that were addressed at the time, including desegregation of the schools, the civil rights movement and the effects of urban renewal.

PROJECT DETAILS ˝ Case Study 2: The African American Album Vol. II

What is it? ˝ The African American Album, Vol. II is a multimedia showcase of photographs, video footage, oral histories, music, archival newspaper articles, narratives, and maps of areas razed by urban renewal. The program includes an extensive timeline of events of both national and local significance; a series of topics related to the African American communityÝs heritage; a detailed exploration of a large neighborhood of homes, churches and businesses that have disappeared due to urban renewal in the 60s and 70s; and a collection of photographs spanning five decades of family life, work, celebrations and faith.

How was it developed? ˝ The web site began as a CD-ROM project in 1996. The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg CountyÝs (PLCMC) awarding-winning Virtual Library coordinated the project. The Library hired a project director, contracted with a multimedia firm and created a advisory committee of community leaders to oversee the project. After months of research, planning and development the CD was released in 1998. Due to the popularity of this program and the growing interest by the PLCMC to develop web-based content, the Library requested the multimedia firm that developed the CD create an identical version of the program for its web site. The African American Album Vol. 2 (AAA Vol. 2) was developed for the web over a 14 month period and completed in 1999. All of the content, including the video and audio files are included in this very large web site.

What's included in the site? ˝ The content in the AAA Vol. 2 is organized into the following four sections:

1. Events ˝ A timeline of the African American community in Charlotte from the 1940s to the present. Visitors to this section first choose a decade from 1940 to the present. Dozens of events are included in each of the decades. The events are represented on the timeline with a caption and often with a thumbnail photograph. Clicking on the thumbnail, brings up a new page with a larger version of the photo and more information. Archival video and audio files are used throughout this section. The timeline follows a number of local storylines including the desegregation of Charlotte schools and the landmark Supreme Court ruling that lead to busing students in order to integrate all local schools.

2. Places ˝ A virtual reconstruction of Brooklyn, a large African American neighborhood in downtown Charlotte that was razed in the 1960s as part of the urban renewal movement. Brooklyn was the center of life for much of the African American community in Charlotte from the 1800s until the 1960s. Hundreds of businesses and families were forced to move to other parts of the city when urban renewal caused the destruction of over 95% of all the buildings in a large area a few blocks east of downtown. On the AAA Vol. 2 web site, the neighborhood is carefully reconstructed using insurance maps, city directories and hundreds of archival photographs. Additional information about Cherry, an African American neighborhood that survived urban renewal, helps put the loss of Brooklyn into perspective.

3. Keepsakes ˝ A collection of memorable photographs of the African American community. Visitors to this section of the web site can choose from four distinct albums of photographs that span six decades in Charlotte:

  • "Social Gatherings" celebrates the social clubs, weddings and business gatherings of the community.
  • "Community Life" is a collection of famous and ordinary people captured in the process of living their lives. These photos range from portraits of janitors to professional athletes and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • "Portraits" is organized as a portrait gallery. Visitors can click on thumbnail portraits to see a full screen version of the picture and background information on subject.
  • "The StroudÝs Family Album" is an outstanding oral history featuring two leaders in the local community, Gerson and Daisy Stroud. This section is divided into eight stories from their lives. Visitors can hear the Strouds describe events from the WWII to the present while viewing photographs from their family album.

4. Heritage ˝ An in-depth look at several of the most important institutions in the African American community. Visitors to this section of the web site can choose from four themes that have played a important role in the development of the black community:

  • "Visit CharlotteÝs Churches" is an interactive treatment of an article titled, "Rock of Ages" that was originally published in the Charlotte Observer. The article is enhanced with dozens of archival photographs of local churches and congregations.
  • "Experience the First Day of Desegregation" follows four African American children in September 1957 when they attempt to attend previously all white schools. This dramatic section of the web site includes photographs taken throughout that day and video footage of one of the students, Dorothy Counts.
  • "CharlotteÝs All-Black Schools" documents the locations, faculty, students and conditions of the schools that were attended only by members of the African American community. Included in this section are four short interviews in video format that feature teachers and students remembering these schools.
  • "Explore Beatties Ford Road" offers an insider look at one of the most important areas for the community following urban renewal. This section of the web site is based on a Charlotte Observer article. It includes dozens of personal photographs contributed by the people who lived here.

CASE STUDY 3 ˝ Developing a museum-sponsored web site that is (1) archival, (2) educational, and (3) promotional


The Five Faiths Project web site

Web address:


Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


General Public

Design tasks

To create a site that showcases Ackland's extensive collection of religious art and contrasts it with photographs, stories, and information about five faith comminutes in NC (Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish and Moslem.)

Design requirements

  • Design a site that is archival ˝The Five Faith Project commissioned a professional photographer to work with youth to photograph their faith communities. The project also hired a nationally known storyteller to work with adults to capture and share traditional and person stories of faith. The web site needs to contain the youth's photographs and adults taped stories.
  • Design a site that is educational ˝ The site needs to pair the student's photographs and adult's stories with ancient religious art in a contemporary context that helps members of North CarolinaÝs majority faith community better understand the beliefs and culture of the worldÝs major religions. The site should offer information that would allow viewers to use art to compare and contrast religious traditions.
  • Design a site that is promotional ˝ The site will be designed in two phases. Phase one will result in a site that is a complete prototype of a more expansive site. This site will be informational and educational and will be used to raise money for phase two. Phase two will be the full site with all it's educational and archival components.

PROJECT DETAILS ˝ Case Study 3: The Five Faiths Project web site

What is it? ˝ The Five Faiths Project is a multi year effort by the Education Department of the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project combines original works of art from the museum's collection, photographs, storytelling and community events to introduce information about the world religions of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The goal of this project is to help people explore the diverse religious communities that are present in North Carolina. The Five Faiths Project web site offers a compelling look at five religious communities in North Carolina from several different perspectives. This web site is an interim step toward a much more expansive site that is being proposed to public and private funding sources by the Ackland staff.

How was it developed? ˝ The Five Faith Project was begun by Ray Williams, Direction of Education at the Ackland Museum of Art in 1996. The project hired nationally renowned photographer Wendy Ewald to work with youth from five faith communities across NC. This resulted in the 1999 Visions of Faith travelling exhibit. Storyteller Louise Kessel worked with adults to gather and share stories from each faith community. This resulted in several public performances and an audio-tape. In 1999 a multimedia development firm began working with the Ackland to design a web site that could capture all the excitement of the project and allow it to experienced by a larger audience. The web site plan has two phases. Phase one resulted in a prototype site that offers a rich overview of the Five Faiths project. Phase two is for a larger more complete educational tool. Presently the Ackland's Development Department is using the prototype site to secure private and public funding.

What's included in the site? ˝ The phase one prototype of the site contains a rich sampling of the components that make up the Five Faiths Project, including:

  • Visions of Faith ˝ Photographs of five North Carolina faith communities by Wendy Ewald and children
  • The Elephant ˝ A traditional Buddhist story (QuickTime 3 or greater required).
  • Art On-line ˝ An opportunity to learn about 20 objects from the Ackland Art Museum's religious art collection
  • A Look at Buddhism ˝ A look at the North Carolina Buddhist community through student photographs
  • For Parents & Teachers ˝ Lessons plans and guidelines for talking to children about religion and religious art

CASE STUDY 4 ˝ Developing a web site that provides information about arts, science, and heritage events for organizations affiliated with the Arts & Science Council


Cultural Education Collaborative Web site

Web address


Cultural Education Collaborative, Charlotte, NC


(1) General public (2) Parents of school aged children (3) Arts and science professionals

Design tasks

To provide current information on community arts, science and heritage programming in a format that is accessible to the general public and simple to understand.

Design requirements

  • Design a site that can explain the mission of a new organization
  • Site should provide a database of programs and events sponsored by affiliates of Charlotte's Arts and Science community for school age children
  • Site should provide program planning, implementation, funding and evaluation resources for professional cultural educators

PROJECT DETAILS ˝ Case Study 4: Cultural Education Collaborative Web site

What is it? ˝ The Cultural Education Collaborative (CEC) is a non-profit organization that supports the arts and science educational programming in Charlotte. The organization is a funded partner of the Charlotte Arts and Science council and works closely with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. This web site is their first attempt to use the Internet as a way to accomplish the following:

  • Explain the CECÝs mission and purpose in the arts and sciences community
  • Introduce the 32 cultural organizations affiliated with the CEC
  • Provide up-to-date information on the arts and science programming available through the CECÝs affiliates
  • Offer on-line forms and instructions for applying for five CEC sponsored grants.
  • Provide interactive guides for evaluating arts and science programming in your school.
  • Describe professional development content for both school and community based educators.
  • Offer a wide variety of resources including links to other arts and science related sites (local and national), technical help for grants and planning and information on North Carolina grade level standards.

How was it developed? ˝ The Cultural Education Collaborative contacted a e-learning firm to help design a web site that was more than a brochure. They wanted something that had real functionality and provided an important service to the community. The resulting site offers the public a database of program offering for children and youth, on-line grant forms and guidelines for cultural organizations that tie in with the organization's databases, resources and services for field professionals. The multimedia firm is working with Anderson Consulting who is providing an in-kind donation to develop one of the databases.

What's included in the site? The CEC web site is made up of five major areas, including:

  1. About CEC ˝ A section that explains the vision and mission of the CEC. This section will also contain press releases and FAQS.

2. Cultural 411 ˝ A database of arts, science, and heritage organizations that provide educational programming

3. Get Involved ˝ A searchable database of hundreds of programs available to schools and to the public. Parents and teachers can use this feature to pinpoint specific opportunities for arts and sciences programs based on criteria such as the type of program when the program takes place, the age level of the participants or whether the program takes place inside or outside of a school facility.

4. Services ˝ Information about funding, evaluation, and professional development for field professionals

5. Resources ˝ Information about consulting services, on-line help, published materials for field professionals including: writing grants, program planning, collaboration, and evaluation.

CASE STUDY 5 ˝ Using the Internet to provide a pre-tour, classroom orientation to a museum exhibit


Dig-It! web site

Web address


Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC


5th grade students

Design tasks

To design a multimedia piece to prepare 5th grade students for a museum field trip that will feature art from ancient cultures that most students are totally unfamiliar with. All 5th grade students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System have the opportunity to participate in this field trip.

Design requirements

  • Design a colorful, engaging multimedia experience that will prepare 5th graders for a museum tour of pre-Columbian art
  • Create a site that will connect the curriculum's material on South and Latin American cultures to the museum's exhibit
  • Allow students to learn about an ancient culture by exploring historical objects
  • Create a multimedia piece that can be used in classrooms all over the state

PROJECT DETAILS ˝ Case Study 5: DigIt! web site

What is it? ˝ Dig-It! is an interactive exploration of pre-Columbian Latin American cultures that introduces young learners to several facets of Aztec, Maya and Inca life. The software uses text, audio, colorful graphics, animation and digitized photographs of objects in the Mint Museum of ArtÝs collection. The product was originally developed to be distributed on diskette, but is currently available for viewing on the web as a ShockWave file or it can be downloaded for Macintosh or Windows operating systems. Dig-It! can be used by students before or after visiting the Mint Museum to participate in a class field trip. Now that Dig-It! is on the MintÝs web site, the program can be used by anyone interested in Pre-Columbian art or culture.

How was it developed? ˝ The Education department of the Mint Museum of Art contacted an e-learning firm to design a multimedia piece that 5th grade class could use before attending a museum tour. All 5th graders in Charlotte Mecklenburg tour the Mint's pre-Columbian exhibit. The software is an integral part of the museum's D.I.G.S. program (Deciphering and Investigating Great Societies) which integrates the museum's collection into the 5th grade social studies curriculum. The software was tested in 1996 and distributed on diskettes to all the 5th grade classes in the school system. The program has been so successful that it has been made available to all elementary schools in NC. In 1999 the Mint decided to make DigIt! part of it's on-line learning offerings and now provide a Shockwave and downloadable version.

What's included in the site? ˝ Dig-It! presents its content in eight bite sized sections:

1. Introduction - The Introduction uses interactive maps and timelines to allow the student to see when and where the Aztec, Maya and Inca societies thrived. A current map of North, Central and South America is also provided. A menu of seven additional activities is available at the end of this section.

2. Digging the Past ˝ Archeology Students are introduced to the field of archeology and presented with a broken artifact (a 6th century incensario) that needs to be put back together, named and cataloged.

3. Dressed for Success: Ancient Clothing - Students read about the hand woven textiles of ancient Mesoamerica and learn about pre-Columbian fashions by clicking on descriptions of clothing worn by life-like statues.

4. WhatÝs for Lunch?: Food-n-Drink - This section investigates the diet of pre-Columbian cultures by interacting with a menu in "The A-Maize-ing Café." Students also get to see and read about several work of art that were inspired by or used to create the local cuisine.

5. The Setting Sun: Jaguars - This section touches on the religious practices of these cultures and describes how the jaguar was deified. Three works of art that use jaguar images are featured.

6. The Incredible Journey: Burial Practices - Students are introduced to burial practices and beliefs in this section of Dig-It! By moving their mouse through a burial maze, students can uncover buried treasure or run into thieves.

7. Can We Talk?: Hieroglyphs - This section features the written language of the Maya. Glyphs are featured on a wide variety of Mayan art. This section examines two plates that each tell a story once you understand the language. Students use their mouse to uncover clues and learn how to count using the Mayan system of numbers.

8. Happy Ever After?: Review and Conclusion - This final section tests students understanding of the art and concepts presented in Dig-It! There are two interactive games used to review the content. Artifact Intelligence is a matching game in which students drag photographs of art to their matching descriptions. Llena los Espacios (Fill in the Blanks) is a critical thinking exercise that helps students learn how these civilizations were destroyed.


As you can see from these five case studies, the Internet can help museums, schools, libraries, and other cultural organizations achieve things that were impossible a few years ago. These include using the Internet to:

  • Provide educational background and contemporary connection to a museum's collection
  • Promote exhibits and special projects
  • Prepare students for museum tours
  • Integrate the arts into the classroom
  • Provide the community with information about cultural offerings
  • Provide teachers with lesson plans and information on how to use technology in the classroom
  • Enlighten the public on local heritage

The Internet has tremendous potential to help museums, libraries, schools and other cultural organizations achieve their missions. The web can provide assess to allow the public to interact and explore new worlds and broaden personal horizons.