A generation of new, easy-to-use "sociable technologies" is creating opportunities for museums to pioneer the creation of on-line communities. These communities can deepen and extend relationships with and among visitors, while moving museums beyond their traditional role as arbiters of knowledge. Blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, wikis, open-source content management tools and more, collectively offer the promise of greater interaction and collaboration, both at the museum and on-line. Not since the invention of the Web and its subsequent development a multimedia platform have we seen such an exciting array of emerging technologies, yet few museums to date have taken up the tools and strategic advantages offered by what's been dubbed Web 2.0. These advantages include the educational potential of constructivist learning models fostered by on-line collaboration and dialogue and 'first mover' advantage with funders and partners. Meanwhile, not to participate is to risk being left behind by a significant and growing segment of our visitors, and to have our mission and offerings defined by others in our absence, potentially to everyone's detriment. In this mini-workshop, we argue that the strengths of museums such as authenticity, emotional engagement and repeat visitation, make them ideal catalysts for on-line communities; we examine some early experiments; we explore issues of quality and accuracy in visitor-created content; and we suggest models for the management and maintenance of on-line communities.
Keywords: community sites, Web 2.0. science museum, blogs, wikis, rss, podcasts