April 15-18, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Demonstrations: Description

Building Museum Communities through Online Exhibits

Jeff Doyle, Heritance, USA

Heritance (a 501c3 corporation) and Zirgoflex (a Vermont L3C low-profit social venture) have joined forces to develop Open Museum Online (OM_o) , a free, non-commercial online exhibit space where museums can create and host collaborative, web-based exhibits and collections.

OM_o allows any museum or organization, regardless of funding, location, or current technological capabilities, to create dynamic online exhibits. OM_o exhibits can include, text, photo, video and audio contributions, all of which will be automatically aggregated into a global museum.

The goal of OM_o is to provide a public space where collections of all kinds are shared, where people explore the relationships between objects and society, and where community-building takes place through conversations about our shared cultural heritage.

Visitors to OM_o actively engage with the exhibits on a variety of levels: through commenting, rating, tagging, proposing alternative itineraries, and joining in community-wide discussions. Registered visitors can upload images, and embed audio or video in their comments, all of which, at the discretion of the curators, may be promoted to become part of the exhibit.

Curators of OM_o exhibits do not need professional graphic design experience, specialized computer skills, or even dedicated web hosting to create online exhibits; all they require is an internet connection and an exhibit plan.

Heritance proposes four concrete demonstrations of specific ways that small museums can actively engage visitors and stakeholdres through interactive online exhibits that leverage the interests of "real-world" community members (both local and diasporic) turning a "community of interest" into an "interested community."

  1. a photographic "oral-history" exhibit by a volunteer photographer sponsored by a community historical society
  2. a local-history exhibit soliciting and collecting community-contributed content
  3. an engaging, creative, fundraising "gala" sponsored by a non-profit organization (The Altered Books art auction by the Norwich Public Library)
  4. an in-depth catalog and permaneant online record of an actual exhibit by a non-profit gallery. (AVA Gallery exhibit of original oil paintings by the celebrated illustrator Trina Schart Hyman.)

For instance, to illustrate the first case, we will show how the Norwich Historical Society (Norwich, Vermont) built an exhibit called "Faces of Norwich," featuring photographs and bios of many of this small town's residents. The exhibit resulted in enthusiastic participation by a wide variety of townspeople, ranging from natives to newcomers, spanning several generations. The exhibit's success has resulted in lively community participation in other historical society initiatives, and sparked relationships between community members that (we believe) would not have happened without the exhibit's launch.

The demonstrator (Jeff Doyle) is a member of the board of the Norwich Historical Society, Director of Communications for Heritance (a 501c3 corporation), and Technical Director of Zirgoflex (a Vermont L3C, low-profit social venture).

Demonstration: Demonstrations 2 [Close Up]

Keywords: interactive exhibit, collaborative filtering, folksonomy, collective intelligence