Title:New Ideas / New Audiences
Authors:Susan Glasser
Publication:MW97: Museums and the Web 1997

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Web site is piloting a section called “You’re the Expert,” that presents each month a real-case scenario that invites visitors to play the role of a museum expert. One month visitors may have to decide the most effective way to light a piece of sculpture, another month they have to create an inviting title for an upcoming exhibition, write a label for a new acquisition, or select an appropriate period frame for a painting. The intent of this section is multifarious addressing the needs and interests of both the visitor and the museum. Visitors get a behind-the-scenes look at different museum professions, an opportunity to learn something about the art, and a chance to talk to us and each other about what they've discovered. The museum, on the other hand, has an on-going focus group that helps us "eavesdrop" on what general audiences find most interesting; e.g., what exhibition titles attract them or what information they want in a label. This information can then be used to improve our marketing strategies and educational offerings. This paper will explore these other models and suggest ways for museums to better exploit this new technology. Such models will help museum's expand their web site traffic beyond the current tourist and teacher audiences to include the traditional non-museum visitor who might just discover that there's something for them at their local museum after all.