Title:Systematically Speaking: How Do Natural History Museum Web Sites Represent Science?
Authors:Roy Hawkey
Publication:MW2002: Museums and the Web 2002

Museums of natural history are different from other museums not only in the nature of their collections but also in the amount of fundamental scientific research that they undertake. This paper examines the websites of a number of natural history museums to identify how they give expression to their research, what impression they give of the nature, methods and processes of science, and, in particular, how they explain their work in taxonomy and systematics. Incorporating ? and developing ? approaches used in earlier work, this study analyses websites in key aspects of the nature of science: human activity, enquiry, debate, model making, society and, crucially, the science of systematics. It identifies pertinent examples, both explicit and implicit. The findings presented suggest that there are excellent examples of natural history museum websites taking advantage of the opportunity to present science other than as ?revealed truth?. Some not only provide an extensive resource, but also have been able to communicate their fervour for systematics. However, many others would clearly offer more of benefit to visitors if they gave rather less prominence to their own internal organization and paid correspondingly more attention to basic issues in science.