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.

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.

Proposed Cuts in Texas State Aid Impact Small Groups in the Arts

Gov. Rick Perry delivered his State of the State address on February 8th, proposing to consolidate or suspend non-critical state agencies in order to make state government more streamlined and efficient.

International Museum of Cultures

International Museum of Cultures

In Gov. Perry’s plan, he would entirely eliminate funding to four agencies, including the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts, while consolidating dozens of others, as reported in MyWestTexas.com.

In an article published in the DallasNews.com the same day as the State of the State address, the Dallas Area Arts Group expressed concern about the impact that the proposed cuts would have on smaller groups. Arts organizations are currently struggling with slower ticket sales, lower contributions and declining endowment income.

“Doing away with that agency is not going to address the state’s problems in any significant way,” said George Landis, president of the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. “The worst thing is that there are dozens and dozens of really small arts groups in medium and small towns in Texas, and for them, six, eight, 10 or 15 thousand dollars could be a critical amount of money,” he said. “A lot of the arts council money goes to very small local initiatives.”

Paul Stewart, acting president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, said that “There’s sometimes a misunderstanding about the arts, and the positive impact they have on our economy — for driving tourism and other economic activity, and attracting businesses to our state. … These are things that enrich our community intellectually and spiritually as well as economically.”

The International Museum of Cultures is located in South Dallas providing a window into indigenous people of the world  to further mutual respect and peace between peoples. This museum is an example of the great benefit of small cultural organizations for Texas, and the world.