Title:Exploiting Historic Collections On-Line
Authors:Mike McConnell, Iain Middleton
Publication:MW2004: Museums and the Web 2004

Can virtual library and museum collections offer significant advantages over traditional physical displays? Clearly there are benefits in avoiding the natural temporal and spatial limitations of physical collections: location, opening hours, display space; but what other opportunities do new technologies offer? Can such collections overcome the problems that traditional curatorial/cataloguing taxonomies sometimes present for users? Can they ever be a viable alternative to the physical, or do they serve a different or complementary purpose? How important is the physical, tactile nature of artefacts to the user? This paper outlines the processes involved in the creation of three virtual resources at the University of Aberdeen: an on-line museum collection, and two library projects that focus on specific aspects of the region's history. It details how these resources were enhanced by the careful use of new technologies. The authors argue that virtual spaces can indeed complement traditional collections if properly researched, resourced and designed. Moreover, the virtual world can present exciting opportunities for placing materials in new contexts where meaningful relationships can be drawn. The authors contend that in addition to widening access for traditional audiences, virtual collections may also enable access for a different demographic; one that would not normally use libraries or museums.