A Museum that Went All Virtual

As museums consider offering a Virtual Tour of their exhibits so that they can play a larger role in education and expand their geographic reach without large capital investment, there is an example of one museum that has gone entirely virtual. That is to say that this museum does not operate in the traditional sense of having open hours for the public to enter and view their exhibits. The exhibits of this museum are accessible on the Web through Internet enabled PC and hand-held devices.

In a recent article in the Museum’s Journal Blog, Rebecca Atkinson writes about her opportunity to have a sneak preview of the new website of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MoDA). This museum closed its public gallery spaces in October of 2011 and relaunched as an online resource. Exhibitions continue to tour the UK; and visitors are able to request viewing the collections at MoDA’s collections center in north London by appointment.

The challenges MoDA faced, while still a museum in the traditional sense, was the problem of attracting audiences to a relatively inaccessible area on the outer edges of London. This is a challenge that is not specific to only MoDA. Many museums are not easily accessible to the greater public. So, MoDA made the decision to become a Virtual Museum.

We have posted information about the movement of Museums to the Internet providing Virtual Tours of their exhibits. We have discussed at least two reasons that we have seen as motivating museums to offer virtual means for their exhibits to be viewed. But, this is the first museum we became aware of that has gone totally virtual. If there are more stories of museums greatly increasing their utilization of the Web, please let us know by using the Comment field below.

The International Museum of Cultures in Dallas, Texas provides an Electronic Field Trip for educational institutions. You can take a look at this offering on Youtube.

Two Reasons Why Museums are Planning to Offer Virtual Tours

International Museum of Cultures walkwayThe number of museums that are implementing, or planning to implement, the ability to offer Virtual Tours is growing. “Virtual Tour” is one phrase that describes the ability to view exhibits of a museum over the Internet on WEB enabled devices, PC or hand-held. Other terms that are often used are E-Field Trips, Virtual Field Trips or Electronic Field Trips.

We have previously written on some of the reasons why museums are making their exhibits available on the Web. One reason that we have written about is that museums are playing a larger role in education.  Because the student learns in a museum environment through ‘discovery’ the learning can be deeper and more thought-provoking. So the information learned in a museum may have an exponential result because thought generated through discovery promotes more thoughts.

The greater role that museums are taking on in education comes at the same time when school budgets are being reduced. Field trips are often one of the first line-items in a classroom budget that gets eliminated. In response, museums are creating virtual tours of their exhibits. This brings the museum to the student, instead of having to transport the student to the museum.

Another reason that Virtual Tours are being developed by forward thinking museums is to extend the reach of the museum in a time when funding, either through private or public means, is diminishing. The recessionary economic climate has had a negative impact on funding for many non-profit organizations, as mentioned in our post on the “Proposed Cuts In Texas State Aid Impact Small Groups In The Arts“. A museum can use the Internet to reach a greater geographic area and a greater number of people without the investment in brick-and-mortar expansion.

The International Museum of Cultures (IMC) in Dallas Texas has developed a virtual tour of several of their exhibits. In addition, the IMC has created related curriculum for specific age groups making the integration of the Virtual Tour with the classroom program very easy for the teacher. This has allowed the IMC to reach many more young people than ever before.

We will be further exploring the effects of this business model change for museums in future Blog Posts. If you are aware of more factors that are fueling this movement of museums going onto the Web, please use the comment field below to share your thoughts and examples.

The Talking Drum, from the International Museum of Cultures’ Virtual Field Trip for Teachers

Through the IMC Electronic Field Trip, the museum’s exhibits on indigenous peoples come to life. For instance, a teacher can have students experience the unusual “Talking Drum” without having to leave the classroom.

The International Museum of Cultures has exhibits on the Bimoba people. The Chief of the Bimoba people uses a Talking Drum to announce the arrival of visitors to the village or when the chief wishes to call a special meeting.

When we think of drums being used to communicate, we often think of the drum as a musical instrument. However, many cultures throughout history used them to convey a signal. In addition to signalling, drums have also been used as a speech surrogate. A Speech Surrogate replicates the tone and rhythm of oral speech.

Drums that are used as Speech Surrogates are also referred to as “tallking Drums”. Refer to our previous post on Talking Drums. In that post we highlight Paul Neeley and his book, the “People of the Drum of God – Come”.

Below are excerpts from the dialogue in the International Museum of Cultures Virtual Tour where the Docent refers to the use of a Talking Drum by the Bimoba people of Northeastern Ghana:


Gwen (The Docent speaking to the children that have entered the Museum)

Hello, are you ready to go to Africa? Just follow me…

The Bimoba live in Northeastern Ghana, in West Africa, and there are about 120,000 speakers of the Bimoba language. The Bimoba chief is a very important person.  To become a chief, he must be born into the Bimoba royal family, be popular or wealthy, be married and have at least one child, and he must not have been a criminal, be scarred or disabled in any way.

Ruben (student)

That’s not nice.  I mean if someone had a bad leg or something and couldn’t be king.

Gwen (Docent)

Well, to our of way of looking at the world, you might be right, but we must remember that different cultures have different ways than ours. One main difference in the Bimoba culture is that a chief does not speak directly to his people, nor does he speak loudly.  He speaks to a person called a “linguist”, who speaks loudly on his behalf, refining what he has said.  To speak to a chief, a person addresses the linguist, who is highly regarded because he intercedes between the chief and the people.

(The Docent picks up a drum.)

Gwen (CONT)

This is the “Talking Drum”:  The Bimoba can change the pitch by squeezing the strings that run down the side of the drum.  The chief or the chief’s linguist uses this type of drum to announce the arrival of visitors to the village or when the chief wishes to call a special meeting.


Click on the picture to hear an example of a Talking Drum

Take a moment to hear more of the International Museum of Cultures’ Virtual Field Trip by clicking here. If you want more information about using the Museum’s Virtual Fielp Trip, contact us at  972-708-7406 or send us an email at info@internationalmuseumofcultures.org.

Museum’s Role in Education

Museum’s have much to offer the educational process.

Museums stimulate creative thought by engaging the student in topics and perspectives that are unstructured and learned through discovery. The museum setting acts as fertile ground for the growth of strategic problem solving skills.International Museum of Cultures walkway

The International Museum of Cultures, for instance, explores the cultures and living habits of indigenous peoples around the world. Multiple methods are used to communicate the information to the student or class.

The museum’s gallery exhibits include interactive videos from Africa, Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, China, Mexico, South America and Native America, in addition to an extensive drum exhibit accompanied by video programming.

The Museum is situated in a wooded, scenic area. Authentic homes are located on the museum grounds from the Lakota Sioux Native Americans and Papua New Guinea.

There are multiple anthropology-based educational programs available from the International Museum of Cultures that focus on teaching students to respect and understand other cultures. These programs can be easily integrated into curricula, such as science, social studies, fine arts, English language arts, and math.

The Electronic Field Trip takes the traditional field trip experience to another level! It is entirely online and is designed as an interactive learning tool for your students.

Discovery Boxes allow students to experience cultures around the world in a unique and interactive way. Discovery boxes come in 12 different themes and include a variety of objects from our museum’s collection.

The traditional field trip to the International Museum of Cultures can include crafts, interactive activities, and more!

Contact the museum

Contact us to discuss how we can assist you and your educational objectives. We will work together to meet your needs and the needs of your students.

Elementary Students Enjoy Visiting the Museum Without Leaving the School

A Cedar Hill Elementary school recently enjoyed a unique experience by visiting the International Museum of Cultures without leaving their school.Electronic Field Trip of the IMC

The Museum staff presented the “IMC Rocks!” video along with the enrichment components for the students.

The students were totally engaged in the Electronic Field Trip experience. This is consistent with the program results we have validating how schools are embracing this innovative and interactive learning method. This is especial critical in a time when funds are being reduced for educational field trips.

In this particular event, there were sixty-five 1st grade students in an auditorium. These students were shown the African and South American museum sections of the eField Trip. After the video was completed, the students were further engaged through the related curriculum for grades 1st through 3rd.

Electronic Field Trip

The Electronic Field Trip is entirely online and is designed as an interactive learning tool for students. Several different activities ensure that the students enjoy learning about others’ lives around the world without leaving the classroom.

The Virtual Field Trip includes:

  •  a series of videos delivered over the Web that provide an entertaining tour of different sections of the museum. The tour focuses on the Peoples of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico
  • curricula covering TEKS for K-12 science, social studies, English language arts, and math.

Contact the International Museum of Cultures for more details, or call 972-708-7406.

Virtual Field Trips – A Response to Reduced School Budgets

Museums have so much to offer children. A museum will transport a child into a world of thought that stimulates their dreams and creativity.

Unfortunately, the budget cuts that schools are experiencing in almost every part of the United States are reducing the opportunities for children to visit a museum on a school field trip. One of the largely contributing factors is the cost of transportation.

As was recently reported in the Texas Tribune post on “Texas Museums Hit as Schools Take Fewer Field Trips” – State lawmakers last year cut $4 billion in general revenue from public education plus $1.4 billion in discretionary grants for programs like pre-kindergarten and remedial tutoring. The article goes on to say …districts may choose to follow the model of Cypress-Fairbanks, the third-most populous district in the state, which for years has not offered any field trips at all, instead relying on in-school presentations to keep expenses down.Electronic Field Trip of the IMC

The International Museum of Cultures (IMC) has tracked school group tours over the past three years at several museums. The IMC statistics reveal a 15 to 20 percent drop due to transportation costs.

A response to this growing challenge of reduced availability of funds for travel has become the Virtual Field Trip, also referred to as the Electronic Field Trip.

The IMC has responded to the budgetary challenges facing educators by developing an Electronic Field Trip. This eField Trip provides students the ability to experience diverse cultures without having to leave their classroom.

The first virtual tour of the museum covers Africa, South America, Mexico and Papua New Guinea in a 45 minute presentation.  It is divided into four segments should the educators wish to focus on one country at a time.

The Electronic Field Trip is now available for fee-based access via the Museum’s website. Call 972-708-7406 or Email us at Info@internationalmuseumofcultures.org for details.

Promotional Video of the Electronic Field Trip from the International Museum of Cultures

Electronic Field Trip of a Unique Anthropology Museum

Our new educational products are providing many opportunities for outreach.

The Electronic Field Trip, called IMC Rocks!, is our premier production, presenting a virtual tour accompanied with teacher’s guide and complete curriculum. The e-field trip is delivered over the Cloud from any Web-enabled device. The program meets or exceeds the TEKS in social studies, language arts, music and math. See our promotional video by clicking on the world below:

Electronic Field Trip video from the International Museum of Cultures

The International Discovery Boxes are also very popular. Check them out as well.

For more information Contact Us