Title:The Museum as a Forum for the Nation
Authors:Alan Smith
Publication:MW98: Museums and the Web 1998

Three years are a small blip in the context of a museum grounded on the natural environment, social history and the fine arts. But for the World Wide Web, they compress several generations of fast change. What's the coming together of these meant for Te Papa - whose new building opening in February 1998 is the biggest national museum project under way anywhere in the world - and the largest single cultural investment ever made by a New Zealand government. There has been vigorous debate within Te Papa over what the website should be - who should drive it - how should it add value to corporate strategies - what it could mean for a museum whose founding statute set the objective of its being "a forum for the nation". In the wider context, New Zealand has a reputation for fast uptake of new information technologies: its website has to successfully compete for attention with those of the other major institutions of national identity. For schools, the Web is now a mainstream knowledge access channel; there are competitors for supply of content, yet what richer source of content is there than the Museum's superb research-based collections? For the indigenous people, the Maori, internet technologies are giving real meaning to access to oral and visual information - there are hard issues here for how the Museum presents itself. The Conference is something of a case study of: one Museum building the Web into its change process; how intellectual property rights and revenue opportunities are affected leveraging the Web potential for interaction with all New Zealanders - a forum for the nation; how to ensure dynamic updating with cost-efficiency principles hyperlinks - the real key to museums, archives and libraries working together