Authors:Noel Wanner
Publication:MW99: Museums and the Web 1999

With the spread of fast computers and high bandwidth, the Internet is moving beyond text and still images, becoming an avenue for audio and video content. Increasingly sophisticated software enables live events to be Webcast at a relatively low cost; almost anything you can put in front of a camera or a microphone can be Webcast to the world. Nonprofit educational institutions such as museums can now enter the broadcasting fray. But what does it mean for a museum to become a Webcast content producer? Is television a model that museums should imitate? Does the web medium enable new and different kinds of interaction with the audience? Webcasting offers many new possibilities: o Live events can be archived online for later viewing. o Other forms of Web content can prepare audiences for the live event, creating a deeper experience. o E-mail and live chat can offer Web audiences a way to interact with museum staff during a broadcast. o All forms of content produced can be combined after the event to create a valuable Web resource, which offers value to web visitors long after the event o Live events can draw large audiences to a Web site, introducing them to other content areas. In the past two years, the Exploratorium has built an on-floor Webcast production studio, and has embarked on a program of Webcasts. Some were simple broadcasts of events on the museum floor, such as Iron Science Teacher, in which teachers built science demonstrations in the shop and presented them to the museum audience. Others were complex events like Solar Eclipse: Stories from the Path of Totality, in which the museum staff covered a total solar eclipse on the island of Aruba, bringing live video to the museum audience and then Webcasting both feeds into a Webcast out to an internet audience. By looking at the Exploratorium's experience over the past several years, this paper will examine some of the possibilities and pitfalls of this new hybrid medium. Solar Eclipse: Stories from the Path of Totality Iron Science Teacher