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BELLTONES: Viva Virtual Visits! Museums, Gardens, and Web 2.0

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Jul 1, 2008
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I am writing this on a beautiful March day; in fact, it is the first day of spring. Here in Texas, bluebonnets are popping out, and I am looking forward to an excellent wildflower year in my area. My mind, however, is looking ahead to July, when this column will be published. I am imagining readers who are off for the summer, kicking back a bit, and possibly having a little time to explore new and different things. What a great time to visit a museum! I know there are some very inviting exhibits slated for the summer months at Houston area museums, not to mention our local Sam Houston Memorial Museum, which is two blocks from my house. No doubt this is true for museums within walking distance from wherever you are.

What? No museums that close? No desire on your part to leave your comfy poolside chair or delightful cabin porch in the woods? More likely, no inclination to load up the kids and hit the road? How about some virtual visits? You can go online and find all sorts of wonderful museums and gardens to explore and tag for future use with students as well as for your own interests.

Thinking along these lines causes me to go back in time a week or so. It was recently my privilege to attend a conference for both library and museum professionals. I was invited to the conference, WebWise 2008, because I am the principal investigator for an Institute of Museum and Library Services Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant. IMLS co-sponsored the event. The theme was Web 2.0. One of the most interesting things about the experience was learning about the goals, issues, and other information about museums and museum professionals. Here are some things I learned:

Like librarians, museum professionals care passionately about their missions, their collections, and their patrons.

There are a lot of similarities between librarians and museum professionals. We care about our collections and need to maintain them, we want to have displays and offerings that are relevant and exciting for our patrons, and we find technology more and more a part of our environments.

Both libraries and museums are increasingly turning to the internet and recognizing the value and attraction of online experiences for their users. Web 2.0 applications are growing in importance for our patrons and for our institutions.

Like librarians and teachers, museum professionals are really into tagging. Many have their own systems for patrons to tag images or artifacts that they like, and others point people to, Digg, or similar resources.

The terms "patron" or "user," are being redefined to encompass people from all over the world, many of whom may never visit an institution’s physical presence.


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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