Title:Virtual Members: CHIN and The Guide to Canadian Museums & Galleries
Authors:Bonnie Szirtes
Publication:MW98: Museums and the Web 1998

The Guide to Canadian Museums and Galleries, launched by CHIN in July 1996, is the direct result of a Directors meeting held in the Spring of 1995 where the museum community voiced its desire to use the Internet as one means to attract new audiences. In its new directions, CHIN moved away from client-based services and towards the idea of "Membership". In this way, all "Members" of the virtual community, i.e., CHIN and museums, would work together to create a collective resource on the Internet - the Guide. There is an investment on the part of all Members - CHIN maintains all technical components of the Guide in addition to providing Internet accounts and training to Members and museums contribute information about their collections and events - and therefore, a stake in the future success or failure of the Guide. The more complete and current the information is, the more successful the Guide will be in attracting new audiences and bringing back repeat visitors. With the potential for virtual visits to translate into actual visits, everyone benefits including the general public who has a new and reliable resource to use. This paper will analyze the Guide in terms of what works and what needs to be reviewed. The concept of "Membership" will also be assessed based on the changing needs of the virtual community - what does membership involve from CHIN's standpoint?, what is the perception of membership among museums?, is 'membership' a valid term to represent the reality of the virtual community? This paper will also examine the future direction of the Guide in terms of the virtual community and perceived challenges for both CHIN and museums.