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Achieving this goal may prove to be difficult, as it is likely that this approach will be as much a challenge for museums as the transition to studying the “library in the life of the user” has been for libraries (Augst & Wiegand, 2003; Zweizig & Dervin, 1977). Many museum researchers and professionals are still focused on questions about the “user in the life of the digital museum” (Marty, Rayward, and Twidale, 2003). In the process of providing online access to digital museum resources, for example, it is not uncommon for a museum director to ask, “if potential visitors can access our museum’s resources over the Internet, will they still come to the museum?” Despite increasing evidence that this fear is unfounded (Marty, 2004b), many continue to worry that museums will lose significant revenue from would-be visitors who decide there is no need to visit a physical museum if they can access high-quality digital images for free from a digital museum online? The reason this question continues to vex so many museum professionals, however, is that the relevant issue has far less to do with financial remuneration than it does with how users of digital museum resources perceive the integration of those resources into the sociocultural fabric of their everyday lives. The actual question we are unable to answer is: what role does the digital museum play in the life of the user of museum resources?
If a digital museum is truly to serve the needs of its users, we must be able to answer questions such as: • Why do individuals desire access to digital representations of museum resources? • What needs does this help them fulfill? • What is the relationship between digital and physical museum resources according to the user of those resources? • How can we help users integrate digital museum resources into the sociocultural fabric of their everyday lives? • How can enhanced gallery devices, such as PDAs or tablet computers, help individual visitors interface with or make sense of museum exhibits? • How does increased access to digital information resources affect the ability of the information professional working in the museum to meet the needs of museum visitors? This panel will address these and similar questions in an attempt to explore the fascinating issue of the “digital museum in the life of the user.”
Discuss this on the ASIS&T 2005 Annual Meeting wiki!
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