Introduction Today, online exhibitions are a regular offering from our cultural institutions and are an almost necessary adjunct to traditional physical exhibitions, offering a continuing life to the ideas presented in the “brick and mortar” galleries long after the exhibitions have closed. “Virtual only” exhibitions are also on the increase with museums, libraries and archives taking the traditional notions of the exhibition and creating interesting, instructive and fun exhibitions that will never be graced by the feet of carbon-based visitors walking through them.
Showcase objects that could never be on view in a gallery space
Display multiple page openings or leaves of manuscripts
Generally far less expensive than gallery exhibitions
Introduction Online exhibitions reinforce the fact that exhibitions need not be limited to museums and large libraries and archives. Libraries and archives have a long history of using the exhibition of materials to promote their collections. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the ability to create online exhibitions, the constraints of space and time (and to some extent money) no longer hinder libraries and archives in the creation of exhibitions that will help to promote the institutions and their collections.
Exhibition Ideas Caveat! Remember, a collection of objects does not make an exhibition! Only when objects are carefully chosen to illustrate a theme and tied together by a narrative or other thread do they become an exhibition.
The Internet Virtual Exhibition Production Reference Guide
Online With the Show! As we move to provide more access to our collections in the form of online exhibitions, it is important to remember why we are creating exhibitions in the first place. The purpose of the exhibition in a museum is generally quite clear. The museum, to a great extent, exists to serve the exhibition. In libraries and archives, however, an exhibition, whether “real” or “virtual” is an adjunct to a host of other missions and services. In most cases, the exhibition in a library or archive will enhance other programs.
Online With the Show! Additionally, as museums have learned, their real treasures are their objects. A picture on a computer monitor does not have the same level of reality, the same gravitas that the same object has when the visitor is standing in front of it. As museums need to deal with this issue when creating online exhibitions, so do libraries and archives.
Online With the Show! The goodwill and publicity that libraries and archives can generate in gallery exhibitions through the social interaction of their collections and visitors should not be underestimated, but neither should the outreach potential of online exhibitions. At the same time, libraries and archives must be careful to resist the temptation to jump on the Internet bandwagon by simply putting up a number of “pretty pictures” and calling it an exhibition.