The Real and the Virtual: Exhibitions Online
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The Real and the Virtual: Exhibitions Online

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The Real and the Virtual: Exhibitions Online. Martin R. Kalfatovic. Exhibits Real and Virtual. Goucher College. CSP 640. 25 April 2011. Online.

The Real and the Virtual: Exhibitions Online. Martin R. Kalfatovic. Exhibits Real and Virtual. Goucher College. CSP 640. 25 April 2011. Online.

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  • Did you miss out on seeing “ Make the Dirt Fly!”: Building the Panama Canal on your recent trip to Washington, D.C.? Did the New York Public Library’s Dry Drunk: The Culture of Tobacco in 17th- and 18th-century Europe close just before you hit the Big Apple? Is there a collection in your library that cries out to be highlighted in some special way, but you lack the resources to mount a full-fledged gallery exhibition of the items? Well, the WWW, if not fully solving other nagging issues in libraryland, can at least help out with these problems. Welcome to the world of the online exhibition!
  • Did you miss out on seeing “ Make the Dirt Fly!”: Building the Panama Canal on your recent trip to Washington, D.C.? Did the New York Public Library’s Dry Drunk: The Culture of Tobacco in 17th- and 18th-century Europe close just before you hit the Big Apple? Is there a collection in your library that cries out to be highlighted in some special way, but you lack the resources to mount a full-fledged gallery exhibition of the items? Well, the WWW, if not fully solving other nagging issues in libraryland, can at least help out with these problems. Welcome to the world of the online exhibition!
  • Online exhibitions from museums, libraries and archives hit the Internet early on. The Library of Congress made the text files and images from exhibitions such as 1492: An Ongoing Voyage and Revelations from the Russian Archives available on a file transfer protocol (FTP) site in 1992 and 1993. These early efforts, which are still available years later, provided little interactivity and simply allowed the user to download portions of the exhibition. By 1996 the tremendous growth of the World Wide Web as the primary method of the public’s interaction with the Internet saw an explosion in the growth of the online exhibition in museums, libraries and archives.
  • Online exhibitions from museums, libraries and archives hit the Internet early on. The Library of Congress made the text files and images from exhibitions such as 1492: An Ongoing Voyage and Revelations from the Russian Archives available on a file transfer protocol (FTP) site in 1992 and 1993. These early efforts, which are still available years later, provided little interactivity and simply allowed the user to download portions of the exhibition. By 1996 the tremendous growth of the World Wide Web as the primary method of the public’s interaction with the Internet saw an explosion in the growth of the online exhibition in museums, libraries and archives.
  • Online exhibitions from museums, libraries and archives hit the Internet early on. The Library of Congress made the text files and images from exhibitions such as 1492: An Ongoing Voyage and Revelations from the Russian Archives available on a file transfer protocol (FTP) site in 1992 and 1993. These early efforts, which are still available years later, provided little interactivity and simply allowed the user to download portions of the exhibition. By 1996 the tremendous growth of the World Wide Web as the primary method of the public’s interaction with the Internet saw an explosion in the growth of the online exhibition in museums, libraries and archives.
  • 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.
  • Online exhibitions provide many benefits to institutions. Among the benefits are presenting and showcasing objects that could never be on view in a gallery space due to their fragility or rarity and -- for libraries and archives – displaying multiple page openings or leaves of manuscripts that could not be simultaneously viewed in a gallery space. Online exhibitions are also generally far less expensive than gallery exhibitions.
  • 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.
  • Like a good advertisement, an exhibition has not only a good idea, but also a good story. Where do exhibitions come from? The best exhibitions, whether they exist in a gallery space or online, start with an idea. The idea or concept behind an exhibition is what will set it apart from a random collection of objects or, in the case of an online exhibition, images. An idea, well conceived, and thoroughly thought out, properly executed, and carefully illustrated with objects, can not only provide the visitor not only with an educational experience, but also an experience that will provoke further exploration of the topic. Visitors to an online exhibition may also be intrigued enough to visit your collection or local collections that can assist them in their explorations.   Ideas, particularly good ideas, are precious commodities and sometimes hard to come by. In the case of exhibitions, however, some general areas can serve as seeds for coming up with ideas for exhibitions from your own collections.
  • Centennials, sesquicentennials, bicentennials, silver and golden anniversaries, diamond jubilees or any other magic number that ends in a five or zero, can be the impetus for an exhibition. An exhibition created around an anniversary will allow you to revisit the past, highlight current collections or programs, and look forward to the next five, ten, one hundred years! From Smithson to Smithsonian: The Birth of an Institution , an exhibition by Smithsonian Institution Libraries, is a prime example of an anniversary themed exhibition. Created for the 150 th anniversary of the founding of the Smithsonian Institution, From Smithson to Smithsonian traces the history of Englishman James Smithson's gift to the United States for the founding of an institution “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
  • Major events are perfect topics for online exhibitions. Libraries and archives often hold substantial materials related to significant, interesting, or even sometimes just entertaining, events. An event-centric exhibition allows the library or archive to draw on a range of materials and in some cases, collaborate with other institutions such as historical societies, museums, or businesses. The Chicago Fire , from the Chicago Historical Society, is an example of an exhibition built around a notable event. This exhibition offers an overview of the great fire of 1871. The exhibition tells the story of the fire through photographs and an extensive collection of documents related to the fire, including testimony from Mrs. O’Leary (of cow fame).
  • Perhaps the most common exhibition idea is a theme. The themed exhibition are built around a specific idea and develop around that idea. Themes can range from individuals, to professions, to poems, social movements or phenomena, collectors, and other media. Dr. Seuss Went to War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons by Dr. Seuss , from the Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California, San Diego, is an example of a very specific theme, in this case the wartime cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Arranged in chronological order, the cartoons show a side of Dr. Seuss that is not often seen.
  • A special subsection of the “themed” exhibition is an exhibition that highlights treasures of the collection. How different institutions will define just what part of their collections are their “treasures” varies greatly. A much different approach to the "treasures" concept was taken by Texas A&M's Cushing Library. In the exhibition, Fruits of a Research Collection , the uses of a special collection for non-traditional research are highlighted. Steven E. Smith, Special Collections Librarian, noted that the “collections … have also been used by many … people for many other purposes--for example, journalists writing articles for national magazines, film producers creating documentaries, student groups making t-shirts, and book editors in search of cover art” and much more.
  • Though all of the above make wonderful topics for online exhibitions, sometimes it is the odd and the unusual that will both educate and entertain your online exhibition visitors. From where else but Las Vegas could come the exhibition, Dino at the Sands: Dean Martin, 1917-1995 , an exploration of the life and career of Dean Martin from the Sands Hotel Collection in the Special Collections of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries.
  • But remember, a collection of objects does not make an exhibition! Only when objects are carefully chosen to illustrate a theme and are tied together by a narrative do they become an exhibition.
  • Purpose, some exhibitions are merely "pretty pictures" and that is a valid purpose; other exhibitions will strive to tell a story. It is vital that the exhibition proposal clearly outline and delineate the purpose of the exhibition;
  • Audience, there are many potential audiences for your online exhibition, it will be impossible to target them all. It is best, therefore, to target a specific audience as the main focus of the exhibition and plan accordingly. Remember, however, that in the online environment, it is possible, and often fairly simple, to re-purpose and re-use your materials and create multiple versions of an exhibition for multiple audiences (some elements to consider are: local vs. worldwide; motivation; levels of knowledge; reading levels; language)
  • Design, do you want a standard "look and feel" to your exhibitions? Or do you want to have each have a unique look? Are there certain design elements (logos, color themes, etc.) that your library or parent institution encourages (or imposes)?
  • Maintenance, is this a closed, static exhibition, or something that can or should be added to as new items enter your collections?

The Real and the Virtual: Exhibitions Online The Real and the Virtual: Exhibitions Online Presentation Transcript

  • The Real and the Virtual Exhibitions Online Martin R. Kalfatovic Smithsonian Institution Libraries Exhibits Real and Virtual | Goucher College | CSP 640 | 25 April 02011
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
  •  
  • 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 libraries, archives, and museums 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.
    • Generally far less expensive than gallery exhibitions
    Showcase objects that could never be on view in a gallery space Display multiple page openings or leaves of manuscripts
  • 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 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 .
  • Exhibitions = Ideas and Stories
    • Anniversaries
    • Notable Events
    • Themes
    • Treasures
    • The Odd and the Unusual
  • Exhibition Ideas Anniversaries
  • Exhibition Ideas Notable Events
  • Exhibition Ideas Themes
  • Exhibition Ideas Treasures
  • Exhibition Ideas The Odd and the Unusual
  • Caveat! Remember, a collection of objects does not make an exhibition! Only when objects are carefully chosen to illustrate a theme and are tied together by a narrative do they become an exhibition.
  • Developing the Idea
    • Title and theme or principles of the exhibition
    • Purpose
    • Audience
    • Design
    • Maintenance
    • Title and theme or principles of the exhibition
    Developing the Idea
    • Purpose
    Developing the Idea
    • Audience
    Developing the Idea
    • Design
    Developing the Idea
    • Maintenance
    Developing the Idea
    • Objects are silent
    • John Cotton Dana
    • Should Museums Be Useful (1927)
    • What is it?
    • When was it made?
    • What is it made of?
    • Where was it made?
    What is its function? What is its significance? What is its physical description? How was it made?
  • Staff Curator Designer Technical Staff Image Specialists
  • The Real World
  • The Virtual World
  • The Online Environment
    • A good virtual exhibition will include the following elements:
    • the opportunity to visit the exhibition more than once
    • surprise and wonder
    • an overall impression of the site on the home page
    • use of source material provided by the medium to enhance meaning
    • display of images that are best presented on the Internet
    • access to normally inaccessible documents and objects
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Online Exhibitions
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Online Exhibitions
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Online Exhibitions
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Online Exhibitions
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Online Exhibitions
  • Thank You!
    • Martin R. Kalfatovic
    • Smithsonian Libraries
    • twitter/@udcmrk
    • udc793.blogspot.com