The Virtual Museums and Information Society

By the early 2000s, virtual museums had reached a new stage in their development. The earlier period of adapting to the Internet environment had passed, and the introduction and development of virtual museum information resources proposed in the second half of the 1990s were yielding results. The experience gained provided a strong foundation for further development of various digital initiatives online and the expansion of areas of application.

The beginning of the 2000s coincided with a recognition of the need for exploration of the global issues related to the development of the information society, including in the cultural field. In 2000, the Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society was enacted and declared values of the information society, which were broad but also related to cultural and social spheres. The Charter manifested the need to expand and maintain cultural diversity, to strengthen policies in the field of promoting information technology in various spheres, including in terms of culture, for sustainable future development in favor of human needs. The Charter gave impetus to the development of national cultural policies and strategies in general and digital cultural heritage in particular. So, in 2000, the USA adopted the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) [1], which laid the foundations of the National Digital Heritage Infrastructure [2]. Similar national projects have been initiated in other countries. The influence of national policies and strategies affected the ability of museums to expand their online presence, creating new opportunities for the audience to interact with cultural heritage in the online environment.

An important feature of the first decade of the 2000s was the wider publication online of digital collections by museums. The previous approach with the demonstration of individual objects from collections has given way to a new approach – the massive representation of digitized objects. The interest of virtual visitors to the museum and its collections has been fed directly from the home page of the site. A number of museums have adopted the practice of regularly posting images of exhibits on the main page for viewing by all visitors who visit the virtual museum. On the main pages of virtual museums appear images of various objects from the collections, accompanied by a brief description that regularly replace each other [3-4]. Since 2000, The Met Museum has introduced the practice of publishing daily one of the art objects from its collections on the main page of the site. This tradition lasted for a decade and then it was replaced by other approaches.

At the same time, retrieval forms have been developed allowing users to sort and select objects according to their needs or interests. Search patterns have gradually become more complex, granting users to make more accurate queries and obtain more relevant results [5-6]. One of these areas has been the creation of sections specifically intended to be used by researchers. Such sections were not limited to the possibilities of searching or browsing collections and objects. They included publications devoted to the study of the collections or areas to which the collections belong, materials of archives and libraries associated with the museum and other useful resources [7].

With the advent of the first virtual museums on the World Wide Web, there was an understanding of the need to represent the exposition environments of the real museum in digital form. The representation of a real museum space evolved over time from textual description to visualization of museum spaces. Naturally, the first resources such as plans, maps or schemes were intended for practical purposes, first of all to help a potential visitor navigate the territory of a real museum. Often such plans were interactive and were able to demonstrate individual significant objects from the expositions in different halls on the museum’s plan [8]. However, from displaying these separate objects from expositions, museums proceeded to a more detailed demonstration of the museum’s spaces, creating virtual tours. The first such virtual tours were represented simply with photographs of the expositions [9]. This is one of the technically simplest and most practical options for a virtual tour. It is important to emphasize that the idea of representing the museum’s space in the online environment is important as an opportunity to “visit” the museum virtually. Virtual tours gradually became technically more complex. For example, a virtual tour created by the National Museum of Korea currently allows visitors to observe the museum’s exhibitions in extensive detail [10]. This is one of the first examples of the implementation of an interactive approach and navigation for the demonstration of the museum’s halls.

It is regrettable that web-archival materials often do not always provide an opportunity to evaluate the technological solutions of the late 1990s – early 2000s, because web archives did not preserve this unique content presented in flash, animation or other technologies, meaning the saved content cannot be launched by means of modern software. This makes the current study of virtual museums and their history even more relevant and significant.


[1] National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). URL:

[2] Digital Preservation. URL:

[3] The MET Museum. Snapshot of the Main Page on 10 May 2000. Wayback Machine. URL:

[4] The MET Museum. Snapshot of the Main Page on 1 September 2006. Wayback Machine. URL:

[5] The Hermitage State Museum. Snapshot of the Browsing Collection Page on 5 June 2003. Wayback Machine. URL:

[6] The British Museum.  Snapshot of the Browsing Collection Page on 14 November 2008. Wayback Machine. URL:

[7] The Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Snapshot of the Portal for Scholars on 3 December 2007. Wayback Machine. URL:

[8] The British Museum.  Snapshot of the Research Page on 13 November 2008. Wayback Machine. URL:

[9] Vatican Museums. Snapshot of the Virtual Tours Page on 17 August 2005. Wayback Machine. URL:

[10] Vatican Museums. Snapshot of the Virtual Tour Page on 23 October 2005. Wayback Machine. URL:

[11] National Museum of Korea. Snapshot of the Cyber Galleries Page on 1 July 2005. Wayback Machine. URL: