Monday, April 28, 2008

Considering 3D Virtual Surrogates for Real Museum Objects

With the undeniable presence of digital technology in our lives and Web 2.0 use among an ever increasing demographic not limited to the under 30, museums cannot escape the inevitability of becoming either cultural learning organizations "that continue their traditional functions alongside new functions" or simply become obsolete (Moraga 2007). Perhaps, more correctly, museums might be more effectively meeting the responsibility of educating the public through the "science-like access to information" and the "documentary film-like storytelling qualities" that characterize online virtual objects and interactivity than tthrough traditional exhibitions. Many museums are making that shift from being "information interpreters to information providers" (Johnson 2003;Muller 2002).

The physical museum may become more of a repository for objects safely stored away and rarely physically exhibited while "virtual surrogates that can withstand manipulation" are presented instead, taking on the function of educating greater numbers of the public than ever before (Chittenden 2007).This scenario is not limited to one replacing the other but rather virtual surrogates functioning simultaneously or on a more regular basis with the realin sometimes multiple ands differeing contexts and narratives by authors from different cultures and distant museums on other websites in addition to allowing interactive play and study.

The museum has always been a place for learning , but learning in the age of Web 2.0 enables contact with more and different types of learners. It allows different kinds of exposure to art and artifacts which consequently make it more contributive to "innovation and growth." Although "the technological migration from material to virtual artifact is at present gradual," it is immediately worth considering that real objects may become more removed from the "the arena of public display." More museums will need to understand the underlying interpretive strategies used in and educational gains received from the virtual by a new generation of computer-savvy visitors in order for them to remain relevant to their needs and desires (Chittenden 2007).