Title:The Gernsback Machine: Towards a Museum of Possible Futures and Probable Pasts
Authors:Marjolein Towler, Valerie Hobbs, Diarmuid Pigott
Publication:MW2004: Museums and the Web 2004

Museums have traditionally used timelines as a means of creating narratives of historical, cultural, political, geographical and social change. However, such timelines are only one aspect of a potential infinity of semantic continua, and fail to exploit fully the possibilities implicit in the objects that exemplify them. In this paper we describe the 'Gernsback Machine', a novel categorisation and navigation model based on principles of facet analysis that enables descriptive metadata terms to be located within a fully navigable universal facet tree. The navigation potential of 'step, flip or zoom' inherent in the GM permits exploration through all semantic continua, and, by allowing the users to follow their own particular threads, enables complex narrative structures to be created. We describe how the Gernsback Machine can be used to create a virtual museum space for new or existing collections, using a series of recursively defined 'bento' containers to define the museum content. We describe how our prototype illustrates the potential of the GM in exploring different aspects of the time facet, in a 'museum of the history of possible futures and probable pasts'.