April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Demonstrations: Description

Through the Looking Glass: Representing Cultural Heritage Online_The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum in Second Life.

Melissa Carrillo, Smithsonian Latino Center, USA

The Smithsonian reaches well beyond its physical structures and offers substantial branding and education partnering opportunities. In this effort, the Smithsonian’s National Outreach campaign places great emphasis on its online educational resources. One such example is the Smithsonian Latino Center’s website and its new online initiative the Latino Virtual Museum (LVM) in Second Life. Within this online environment, we can reach far more people, and further explore issues of representation leveraging the success and popularity of interactive experiences particularly with younger audiences. The growth of the Web and related technologies enable new possibilities for sharing the Smithsonian’s knowledge from our collections and research in ways never envisioned when it was first created. Over the next several decades, the Institution proposes committing its intellectual and financial resources in the creation of a digital Smithsonian to support both the increase and diffusion of knowledge. The Smithsonian Latino Center is an active partner in this endeavor.

Since the emergence of new technologies and new media, the Institution’s museums have continually striven to incorporate in their websites alternate modes of exhibition viewing and content. Virtual installations address visitors’ needs to access content/ collections in new and exciting ways and increase the diffusion of knowledge. For the Smithsonian Latino Center, building a dynamic online virtual space that will both serve as a repository and display of Smithsonian Latino Collections poses challenges since the virtual museum will predate a physical one. But at the same time it affords great creative opportunities to experiment with audience reception and participation in virtual and interactive spaces and galleries; visual representation of collections; new modes of interactive interpretation and display; building on folksonomy and exploring new ways of museum viewing experiences drawing from classical theoreticians in film, visual culture and museum studies.

Through a demonstration of work in progress, we will illustrate our collaborative work with Ohio University’s Vital Lab in the building of LVM in Second Life. We will discuss our philosophy behind the LVM design, content structure and navigation as it directly impacts and contributes to the creation of virtual spaces and processes that facilitate new kinds of interaction and learning. We will specifically unveil a 2 region sim prototype (9 total) of the LVM in Second Life which includes a central lobby and a collections/exhibition hallway. This will be the first time that Smithsonian museums will collaborate in merging their Latino digital assets "collections" to one main repository that will be hosted by the Center’s virtual museum interface, hosted in Second Life virtual world environment. The emphasis will be on building community among visitors, teachers, children, researchers and the general public interested in Latino history, art and culture.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Demonstrations]

Keywords: Virtual Worlds, virtual reality, MUVES, virtual museums,Digital Library, participatory virtual environments