Title:The Best of Intentions: Public Access, the Web and the Evolution of Museum Automation
Authors:Kevin Donovan
Publication:MW97: Museums and the Web 1997

Internet technologies, specifically the Web, have captured the imagination of museum workers. The potential of the Web as a medium for what is usually referred to as "Public Access" has sparked interest at the highest levels of museum administration, evidenced in new rounds of investment in museum automation. Taken at face value, this enthusiasm is welcome and is certainly informed by the best of intentions. But it does not necessarily follow that this investment will result in improved intellectual access to museum holdings or new audiences. The reasons why the best of intentions are unlikely to yield expected returns include: * current ideas about online Public Access; * the information systems that lie behind Public Access systems; and, * the organizational structure of museums (particularly US museums) The purpose of this presentation will be to: * examine the good intentions of Public Access; * dissect how Web-based Public Access usually manifests itself; * discuss the information systems that currently feed this approach; * propose a new model for what might constitute Public Access (and attempt to rename it); and, * discuss the information and organizational systems required for this new model The presentation will include illustrations drawn from the Web and mock-ups of proposed Web-enabled museum educational sites.