Title:On Beyond Label Copy: Museum-Library Collaboration in the Development of a Smart Web Exhibit
Authors:Bernadette Callery, Robert Thibadeau
Publication:MW2000: Museums and the Web 2000

Visitors to modern museum and library exhibitions see only a limited number of objects selected from the collections. Although exhibitions are designed to interpret those selected objects for a particular audience, exhibition designers and museum administrators have attempted to increase the range of that audience by simplifying descriptive label copy. With limited label copy, it can be difficult for the visitor to understand the chosen object in the context of the scientific, artistic or cultural theory presented in the exhibition. What happens when the visitor wants more? Meanwhile, developments in computer technology present new challenges and opportunities for educators in formal academic settings, libraries and museums. The popular World Wide Web has become an important resource for information seekers, although traditional information providers remain hesitant to distribute their information through this medium. Consequently education suffers because quality information is not being organized, integrated and delivered to an increasing audience of users through the Web. With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon are collaborating to develop, document and disseminate the prototype of a Smart Web Exhibit. Smart Web Exhibits (SWE) are designed to deliver information online, on target and in time to a diverse user community. Like the user selecting material from the library catalog, the museum visitor will select material from the SWE to supplement the museum's exhibits, following suggested trails or striking off on new ones of their own choosing. The SWE extends the museum exhibition, allowing the visitor to see the full text of the selected article or letter or the field photographs or videos, not just the index terms in the catalog. Two SWE will be developed from signature collections in Carnegie Mellon University Archives and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The library SWE will enable users to search photographs, correspondence, lecture notes and published and unpublished papers of two early innovators in computer science: Herbert Simon and Alan Newell. The museum SWE will focus on unpublished correspondence and field notes, published scientific and popular articles and photographs documenting the discovery of dinosaurs in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The SWE will be available onsite in information kiosks in the museum adjacent to the collections discussed, in the library and across the Web. The SWE has three goals that distinguish it from other online exhibits. First, Web-accessible, high-quality, high-value content will be delivered and preserved over time. Second, the project will generate the organizational model and authoring, indexing and usage analysis tools that add value to content and can be re-used with other multimedia collections. Third, research will be conducted and disseminated in human factors, electronic commerce, digital imaging and the collaboration of museums and libraries in the service of education. This paper will report on the progress made toward these goals. Additional URL: