Introduction: When Museum Informatics Meets the World Wide Web, It
David Bearman and Jennifer Trant
Application domains both adapt technologies in distinctive
ways and manifest requirements that can propel basic research in novel directions. Museum informatics is one such domain and its impacts on the World Wide Web are of both sorts. The half-dozen articles we have selected
from the 1999 Museums and the Web Conference for this special issue of JASIS, were selected because collectively they delineate important concerns of museum informatics as an application domain, and call for new methods
in information science as a whole. Our hope is that in this intersection of museum informatics with JASIS, play and research will both benefit and that we'll see some results at future annual Museums and the Web
Conferences. [Full texts of other papers from 1997-1999 presentations can be found on the web at www.archimuse.com by following links to mw97, mw98, and mw99.].
Effective Levels of Adaptation to Different Types of Users in
Interactive Museum Systems
F. Paterno and C. Mancini
At its most basic, this concern for the visitor is manifest in the design of museum
spaces. Paterno et.al. ask of web design what every museum exhibition designer faces with every exhibition: Why should each visitor to an information resource see it in the same way, when their knowledge, expertise and
purposes are so different? Although they arrive by way of a requirement of museum informatics, the problem they are confronting is central to the future of e-commerce - if people don't see themselves in what they find
presented to them on the web, and if the responses from the system are addressed to some one else, they will leave unsatisfied. By taking the problem in two stages - first creating some test response-types and allowing
visitors to self identify, and then exploring how this model could be made more complex in the types it presents and in its response to visitor input, these researchers are providing usable answers, on their way towards
analysis of an exceptionally complex research problem.
On Pattern-Directed Search of Archives and Collections
Garett O. Dworman, Steven O. Kimbrough, and Chuck Patch
Museum information spaces also
pose informational challenges. Dworcman, Kimbrough and Patch expose the limitations of the best developed area of information science, information retrieval methods, when they ask a question basic to any
"collection" of information: what attributes are correlated in this collection? In museum informatics this is an obvious question, as it would be in legal research (with the documents for a court case) or
regulatory enforcement (with the records of a company), but it requires methods that are until know quite undeveloped in information science as a whole.
On-Line Exhibit Design: The Sociotechnological Impact of Building a
Museum over the World Wide Web
Paul F. Marty
Day to day tasks in museums are highly visual and information resources tend to demand
more multimedia integration than team tasks in much of the business world. Marty's application of workflow enhancing information processing methods to a typical museum situation - planning a reinstallation of galleries
- exposes the challenges of applying technology solutions to a demanding application domain and demonstrates the likely benefits such methods will have when applied to other design intensive business processes.
Importantly, Marty recognizes the social informatics of the situation as well, and can reflect on the impact of these changes in working methods on the environment in which the work takes place.
Visiting a Museum Together: How to Share a Visit to a Virtual World
Paolo Paolini, Thimoty Barbieri, Paolo Loiudice, Francesca Alonzo, Marco
Zanti, and G. Gaia
Social interaction is the key to
learning in the museum. Paolini et.al. take the methods developed for that least real universe of video games and explore how they could be used to make real human interaction possible in the world of virtual cultural
experiences. Simply by taking the requirements of museum informatics - interaction with objects and with people - to the World Wide Web, they have exposed a huge new area for research and development and begun to
delineate requirements for object-based learning and social interaction that have relevance to other domains ranging from distance education to future leisure life.
The Neon Paintbrush: Seeing, Technology, and the Museum as Metaphor
Museum visits, and museum exhibitions, are about making meanings. Peter Walsh reminds us that what we see is learned, and
it changes as our expectations change. Through the prism of museum content, artifacts convey both what they are to us today and what they were to others when they were first created or discovered. Walsh asks us to
examine the way in which current technology may be changing what we see. The tools of virtuality, no less than the microscope, take us to a world that is beyond our human perception, and in so doing transform the
reality of the world in which we live by investing it with a potentiality it previously lacked, and which we will never again will be without.
Designing Digital Environments for Art Education/Exploration
Sometimes tools get in the way. Were the designers of computers influenced by the traditional design of museums in making computers so unfriendly?, asks Slavko Milecik. Could both the interface to
the museum and that of the computer be made accessible to very small children, handicapped individuals and all of us who would be delighted to replace a keyboard or a mouse with eye movements and thought? As museum
informatics struggles to meet the challenge to expand audiences and the demands of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Milekic elevates playfulness to a technological imperative and explores the consequences.