The 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.