Title:Visual/Human Interface for Virtual Exhibitions
Authors:Conrad Gleber, Gail Rubini
Publication:MW98: Museums and the Web 1998

Internet web exhibitions and other web art activities signal a new infusion of talent and a fresh perspective on the integration of the Internet. The web offers unique opportunities for artists and viewers alike. An artist with Internet access and a low cost browser can develop a web site and "put it out there" for anyone to see. The web offers viewers a look at the museum activity not limited by time and location constraints. Even as some museum exhibitions and galleries struggle to survive in the 90's low funding climate, web based exhibitions and other museum activities have grown rapidly alongside the new information technologies, offering new opportunities and new methods of exhibition.

I propose this session to examine the direction of web-based museum activities. The session will address the question: what if anything does an Internet website which provides a virtual tour of a museum or exhibition contribute to learning and understanding of art? The panel will discuss the visual/human interface for the development of a web based virtual museums and exhibitions. It seems as if every museum is or will get, "on line". The claim is to use the web to broaden the audience, attract new viewers and give a new wave of access to arts. Is that happening and are they successful? - How are they defining success? - Who is doing the best work?

Specifically the panel needs to address the use of interactive technologies used in the development of the web to distribute art exhibitions. From museums, to on-line magazines, several sites attempt to push the web technologies further. There are sites that use the web as a new art form in itself, to complement learning from other sources, to interact with the viewer, to get the viewer to interact with the site and to shape art activities of the future.

I bring to the conference my personal experience in developing the On-line Learning Environment. The On-line Learning Environment [] is composed of virtual exhibition space developed using interactive 3-D and sound/video transmissions technologies based on the physical exhibits at a new Cultural Center (art and science museum) that is opening in Tallahassee, Florida. Developed for visitors to explore and enrich their education of the arts by using high-quality telecommunications and information technology it will use several technologies which can be down-loaded at no cost from a web browser including: html, vrml, java-scripting (which includes video and audio-streaming), speech synthesis and robotics control via web pages. The Cultural Center's exhibitions will serve as the basis of an interactive experience accessible by web browsers where the viewer will be able to explore and interact with the exhibitions. Sound will serve as both an instructor and guide as one moves through the virtual museum website. Frequent Internet broadcasts of lecturers, demonstrations, video conferencing and interactive exhibitions will serve to extend access to the Cultural Center to those who can not visit the museum. The On-line Learning Environment is a view of a museum of the 21st century. One that is not just one room, one exhibition, one catalogue and one subject bound, but a blending of information and issues as they cross each other. This web site is more than linking text/image driven information. It is creating a visual interactive virtual environment that blends information gathering, sorting and recreating to reinforce the exhibition from both being there and being there virtually.