Towards Virtual Museums online

The first experiments with the integration of museum computers into a network began in the 1960s, associated with the activities of the American Museum Association. Museum professionals quickly became aware of the benefits of networking such as creating common information systems and maintaining integrated catalogs, higher speed of data exchange and processing, efficiency in accessing information, new opportunities for curators and organizing exhibitions due to their greater accessibility to information. Gradually, such online databases are more widely distributed and are used in North America and Europe. Commercial projects are also interesting, such as the online data base ArtQuest, which was created in the early 1970s and included information on art objects put up for sale at auctions. Search capabilities were also significant because it was possible to search and sort information by the author of the work, the period of creation, name, price, presence or absence of images in the catalog [1].

At the MCN conference in 1989, a report was presented on the use of LAN (Local Area Network) in the museum field [2]. Multimedia stations are distributed in public spaces, connected to networks for remote access to resources [3].

Thus, by the beginning of the World Wide Web, the idea of network access to the resources created by museums had been tested both in terms of technology for creating networks and in terms of creating resources for data exchange. Virtual museums as a multimedia product were not something fundamentally new from the point of view of the presented content, much had already been “invented” earlier. The production of museum content for use outside the museum (as it was with museum films and  multimedia for a wide audience) posed fundamentally different tasks for the museum such as creating special adapted content that does not imply the presence of a physical museum near the visitor, but allows the content consumer to delve into the subject, to feel this museum without borders.

The Internet has revolutionized museums’ development, but it cannot be said that it occurred quickly. Technological limitations were a large problem because museums simply could not put already created resources into access. In the headings of some sites there are such concepts as “virtual museum” (for example, Diego Rivera Virtual Museum [4]), “Museum Online” (for example, Australian Museum Online [5], “Museum Explorer” (for example, The Queensland Museum Explorer [6]), “Web museum” (for example, Web Virtual Art Museum [7]). Despite the promising names, many of the first museum information resources were the simple web pages with brief information about the real museum and its collections, self-promotion, a call to visit real museums that are not related to the virtual museum as we understand it. Virtual museums become so when gain greater functionality, allowing users to use the resource, regardless of the physical availability of a real museum.


[1] Databases. Archives and Museum Informatics. Vol. 4. No 4. P. 19.

[2] Patterson S. (1989) LAN Discovered at the Saint Lois Art Museum. In the Program for the Annual Conference of the Museum Computer Network, October 11-14, 1989.

[3] Bearman D. (1989) Interactive and Hypermedia in Museums. In the Proceedings of the International Conference on Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums. Pittsburgh PA, Archives and Museums Informatics, 1991.

[4] Diego Rivera Virtual Museum. WayBack Machine. Internet Archive. Snapshot on 02 November 1996. URL:

[5] Australian Museum Online. TROVE. Web archive. Snapshot on 08 October 1997. URL:

[6] The Queensland Museum Explorer. TROVE. Web archive. Snapshot on 8 February 1999. URL: 

[7] Web Virtual Art Museum. WayBack Machine. Internet Archive. Snapshot on 06 February 1998. URL: