launched in 1995 between the Bellingham public schools (USA) and the Whatcom
County Museum of History and Art
This collaboration resulted in the creation of
a virtual museum devoted to local nineteenth century history.
are building cultural heritage virtual communities; an example of these is the VRoma
(Virtual Roma, A Virtual Community for Teaching and Learning Classics) project (see
Experts in knowledge acquisition and collaboration with those who can supply
knowledge provide a key ingredient in the construction of virtual communities. In a
report on the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci's
(Milan) investigation of the influence of e-mail, discussion lists, and real-time communi-
cation on the development of a community of museum visitors. Giuliano Gaia argued that
"[i]n Italy most museums are focused more on conservation than on communication.
This reflects the situation of the whole culture, often seen as a separate kingdom, far
from the ordinary life of people. Museums are the temples of this `high' culture."
Finding a balance between conservation of the heritage and access and understanding
of it is challenging. Memory institutions can use the new technologies to improve how
they engage users. Gaia's report, `Towards a Virtual Community' outlines the steps taken
by his museum in order to become more open and communicative with its patrons, both
virtual and real.
Influences of virtual communities on human experiences
While technology makes virtual communities possible by providing an interactive
environment with a sensation of immediacy, the communities themselves are inextricably
related to the personal experiences in which they engage the participants. For the her-
itage sector,VCs for professionals offer an efficient and fast way to distribute recent news
and developments using weblogs (blogs) and/or specialised chat networks.This new form
of organising knowledge has already attracted considerable interest from the professional
community, and the number of weblogs on library topics is already over the one hundred
While these methods of communication do not constitute communities them-
selves they lay the foundation building them.
When VC technologies are used in parallel with mobile devices, they could serve for
sharing visiting experiences. For example, an electronic guidebook called Sotto Voce
implemented on Compaq
PDAs allowing pairs of museum visitors to follow a muse-
um tour simultaneously.
Experiments with the system were conducted at the Filoli
250 J. McKenzie, 1997,"Building a Virtual Museum Community", Museums and the Web Conference, Los Angeles,
254 See also Derek W. Keats, Maria Beebe, and Gunnar Kullenberg,"Using the Internet to enable developing
country universities to meet the challenges of globalization through collaborative virtual programmes" in First
Monday, vol. 8, no. 10, October 2003: http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue8_10/keats/index.html
255 Details of some of the larger library blogs are listed in the References section.
258 R.E. Grinter, et al, 2002,"Revisiting the Visit: Understanding How Technology Can Shape the Museum Visit"
in Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, (New Orleans),
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