What is an online exhibition?
A loose definition of an online exhibition would be: a collection of objects presented using an online platform. If you were to type “online exhibitions” into Google here is a selection of what you might be looking at when you click on the site
Tombstone information and pictures set into general categories, but not necessarily in exhibitions.
A designed exhibition presented online
Games for kids using museum objects- The British Museum: Museum Explorer
An online version of a book of objects
Objects related to a radio show
A museum exhibition that has been transferred as exactly as possible to an online platform.
The method of online exhibitions I was most interested where the museums that made a choice and arranged objects in an order rather than referring to their online catalog as an online exhibition.
Who is the Audience?
The audience for online museum exhibitions is anyone who stumbles onto the site. The only limitation is that most online exhibitions that I found were text heavy. The Audience for the British Museum website is anyone of the 6 million visitors to the museum, but may also include, researchers, students, and teachers from around the world.
I chose to look at the children’s section of the British museum website. The museum decided to take the most iconic objects in the museum and turn it into an online exhibition to give children more information. First of all, I like that they did limit themselves to just nine objects, which took incredible discipline on their part given the number of amazing objects in their collection. This is also, a good counter to the sites who have all of the objects on the website but not much information or categorization.
I also took a closer look at one of the objects they placed in the exhibition to see how it was displayed. When looking at the Lewis Chessman display there where a few things I noticed at first glance. When I first looked at the page I though there was a little bit too much going on, but the information is well organized. There is a good size picture in the middle of the screen withe an arrow indicating more images. Below the image is a short description that one could read while still having one eye on the object. When I started analyzing the page I found that it is layered, so it can be used my many different audiences. There is the tombstone information, but also more detail that older children or adults could read that explains the History of the objects. It reminded me of the How Things Fly exhibition at Natural History with the layers of information. This website also has links for additional information if it is desired.
The greatest strength of this design for an online exhibition is there ability to explain small details that would not be visible if looking at he objects int he museum itself, not least because as a highlight it is hard to get a good look at the objects to start with. The museum also took this opportunity to make full use of the fact that they have more than one set of chessmen, so they made comparisons that would be harder to show in the museum when trying to display the collection of chessmen as a whole.
The last detail that I wanted to draw attention to, was the fat that the descriptions don’t talk down to the reader. They are clearly written so kids can understand them easily , but they are not overly simplistic. I also took a look at the Lewis Chessmen in the non-kids section of the website and found, honestly that the information in this “kid” section was more interesting and informative than in other descriptions of the object.
I thought this was a great example of using the strengths platform, rather than having images and the same informations that one might get from the in museum explanations.
Links to Other Examples