Online Resources for Realtime Museums

Each fall I teach a course in Museum Practices as one of the core courses in the University of Memphis Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program.  Each class period during the 15-week seminar covers some aspect of Museum Practices in everything from Personnel Management to Virtual Museums.  Over the past couple of years, I am increasingly mindful of the number and diversity of resources available online for the weekly topics.  As well, the number of topical areas in Museum Practices have increased dramatically.  Twenty years ago issues of digital technology and virtual museums were not considered.

This year, to cope with the sheer quantity of information available, students are providing three to five annotated references on the weekly topics.  My thinking is that at the very least, by the end of the course students will create a list of more than 500 references including websites, blogs, journal articles, books, and museums.  A bonus is that the class includes Art Historians, Egyptologists, Anthropologists, Historians and Fine Arts students.  This range of interests assures a diversity of perspectives.  I am very pleased with the results in the first month.  I will be certain to the link a compilation of the references to this blog at the end of the semester.  Here are a few of the resources students discovered to date that relate directly to Archaeology, Museums and Outreach:

Samantha Smith reported on  a link from the Smithsonian Institution that provides curriculum standards for all 50 of the United States.  This resource is invaluable for those developing Museum or Archaeology educational programs linked to curriculum standards in their states.  As well, for those developing a virtual program presence, they can be certain their products are suitable for a broad regional audience.

Tiffany Redman found a link at the Metropolitan Art Museum that contained downloadable resources such as Powerpoints, lesson plans, articles, and teaching packets on many of the permanent collections from Korean to Roman art.   Although intended to complement museum visits, the material is a great deal of stand alone teaching resource as well.  This type of information is representative of a growing trend of museums to place pre- and post-visit school group materials online.

One of the resources Becky McGee provided was from the Turkish archaeological site of Catal Hoyuk.  As with the MET link, the Catal Hoyuk webpage represents a growing trend in archaeological sites to provide up-to-date reporting on research, interpretations, and collections online.  The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism is quite active in this arena.

Tameka Townes found that MuseumSpot is an excellent resource for online offerings from hundreds of museums throughout the world.  Again, the focus is on the information that the institutions provide online, whether in the form of podcasts, digital photos, or lesson plans.

Lauren Huber reported on the Global Museum.  Like MuseumSpot, the Global Museum has links to podcasts, publications, scholarly articles, social networking and much more.  You can sign up for email updates that are long, somewhat jumbled, but come out on a regular weekly or so basis.

Here are a few takeaways that I have from reviewing the students work thus far.  First, beyond museums that exist only in virtual space, there is growing trend for museums that exist in physical space to load substantive content online.  This trend goes beyond advertising for real-time visits, but arguably begins to approach building dual institutions.  Second, out of the 150 or so annotated references posted to date, I was familiar with only about 10% of them.  In some ways this is not surprising given that 3/4 of the class this semester are graduate students in art history, not my strength area at all.  But at the same time, I consider myself reasonably savvy about matters online.  This exercise showed me that at mainline resources, such as the Smithsonian that I have linked to often, there is a substantive amount of data in the various nooks and crannies of the online world that is only a click away.

Gordon Wiley, a major figure in New World Archaeology from the last century allegedly stated that with the increased specialization in archaeology, he was the last of the generalists.  I am struck that within the world of online museum resources, the same has become true, and within a considerably shorter period.  Once again I realize that we are not in Kansas anymore.

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One thought on “Online Resources for Realtime Museums”

  1. I enjoyed your post. I’m just getting into the museum aspects of the career field as being a historian for the Air Force has been my primary job. I know the feeling on trying to find the nooks and crannies of the online world, its an ever changing world. I try to at least go back once every month or so and see if anything new has been added if the site does not have an alert system on it to notify me of changes.


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