The University of Pennsylvania Museum ready to take on the next millennium? This question is prompted by a conference I recently attended at the Smithsonian, entitled “Museums for the New Millennium.” In fact, we are undertaking projects that look to the future right now. These are, in one way or another, forms of electronic “outreach,” attempts to spread our name, our reputation, and our educational resources beyond our brick walls—allowing us to become a “museum without walls,” if you will.
- Our World Wide Web site offers basic and vital information concerning our exhibitions, events, and cultural and scholarly resources. And Dr. Phil Chase of the Museum’s Computer Center is creating web exhibits rich in content; his first project was The Ancient Greek World, a hypertext site built around a gallery feature that appeared in Expedition (Vol. 36, Nos. 2-3, 1994). The site demonstrates the power of hypertext as an educational tool to organize and link subjects and images. Phil is currently working with Adria Katz of the Oceania Section on another web exhibit focused on the Museum’s Borneo collection.
- Also available is the extensive, newly revised Catalogue of the Publications Department, one of the first divisions of the Museum to go on-line. The Department recently expanded beyond the printed page by issuing Museum curator Harold Dibble’s CD-ROM, which supplements the monograph on his excavations at Palaeolithic Combe Capelle in France.
- A day-long conference, “The Virtual Dig”: Computers and the Pursuit of the Past, will be held at the Museum on March 22, 1997. Dr. Dibble, one of the participants, will demonstrate his software program which allows one to “excavate” the site of Combe Capelle, using a computer’s cursor as a brush, a trowel, or even a back-hoe.
- Ninth-grade world history students at George Washington High School in Philadelphia have created a “virtual museum” CD-ROM entitled “Ancient Mesopotamia and the University of Pennsylvania Museum.” Project CREATE, as it is called, is a collaborative effort of our Education Department, Moore College of Art, and the Philadelphia School District as part of a major federal initiative to bring new technology to schools.
- This fall a series of video conferences will be conducted between our Museum and the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University, England. Themes from the world of classical art and archaeology and the collapse of Maya civilization will be explored for audiences at Penn and Oxford. The purpose is to explore the methods by which international institutions can collaborate to educate and provide outreach beyond their immediate communities.
The above is only a partial list but serves to introduce some of the more interesting electronic projects in which we are engaged. I believe that from at least one perspective, an electronic one, we are positioning ourselves well for the next millennium.