Putting an Exhibit online vs. Creating an Online Exhibit


There are many advantages to making oral histories available online including increased access to collections, thematic context capabilities, hyperlinks to related content, and the availability of supportive multi-media material.  However, as learning tools and sites for potential engagement these oral histories must be exhibited in ways that make their content accessible, associative, and navigable within a virtual context. The associations made evident through an exhibition’s design and interview content can be further strengthened by a visitor/user’s ability to navigate the content in an intuitive manner, especially if the exhibition is primarily web based. When crafting an exhibition for a virtual space it is important that the design and development process not neglect the need for dialogic association, usability, and access.

Joshua Dector, in his contribution to The Discursive Museum, points out the relationship between a museums virtual presence to its public face in an urban context, “de- or re-territorializing the traditional locus of the museum into the ‘body’ of the city;  endeavoring to broaden the potential of the museum to engage in unusual and unexpected interventions and interplays with the surrounding environment. This de-territorialization does not have to unfold exclusively in relation to the literal space of the city. Indeed, it can also unfold in relation to the space of the internet, as museums take advantage of the possibility of extending themselves into virtual territory.”

Don’t just put and exhibit online,  create an online Exhibit and while your at it find a way to bridge the gap between the collection, the content, the site, and the visitor. Ok, but how? Not sure but I think social media and personal experience has SOMETHING to do with it Especial when working with interactive oral history collections. The oral historian Willa Baum defines community as “…a social network of people with some common interests and ties. It may be geographical, it may be occupational, or it may be around an idea.” So Why not engage the museum community with its urban context.

The ability to utilize social media as a dynamic interpretive method speaks to the polyphonic influence of oral history’s ability to facilitate cumulative dialogue and act as a an extension of the museum’s public face. The mobility of social media interaction disperses the public awareness of living histories and recognizes the role of the individual as a contributing element to the museums developmental process. “Moving elements in a city, and in particular the people and their activities, are as important as its stationary parts. We are not simply observers of this spectacle, but are ourselves a part of it, on the stage with other participants. Most of our perception of the city is not sustained, but rather partial, fragmentary, mixed with other concerns. Nearly every sense is an operation, and the image is the composite of them all.”[1]

If your looking to broaden your sense of humanity and  give me a gift, send me one of these. There currently out of print and kind of spendy.

[1] Peter Noever, The Discursive Museum,(MAK Stubenring: Hatje Cantz Verlag: 2001), 83-97


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I'm also a contributor to the Henry Art Gallery's Hankblog and editor/producer of the Gallery's ArtCasts.

I'm currently working as a Wallace Foundation Fellow with emp|sfm to foster a new network for the NorthWest all ages music & arts community. Its called The Sound Board and you should totally check it out.

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