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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License



Exploiting Historic Collections On-line
Mike McConnell, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Iain Middleton, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Session: Virtual / Physical

Can virtual library and museum collections offer significant advantages over traditional physical displays? Clearly there are benefits in avoiding the natural temporal and spatial limitations of physical collections: location, opening hours, display space; but what other opportunities do new technologies offer? Can such collections overcome the problems that traditional curatorial/cataloguing taxonomies sometimes present for users? Can they ever be a viable alternative to the physical, or do they serve a different or complementary purpose? How important is the physical, tactile nature of artefacts to the user? This paper outlines the processes involved in the creation of three virtual resources at the University of Aberdeen: an on-line museum collection, and two library projects that focus on specific aspects of the region's history. It details how these resources were enhanced by the careful use of new technologies. The authors argue that virtual spaces can indeed complement traditional collections if properly researched, resourced and designed. Moreover, the virtual world can present exciting opportunities for placing materials in new contexts where meaningful relationships can be drawn. The authors contend that in addition to widening access for traditional audiences, virtual collections may also enable access for a different demographic; one that would not normally use libraries or museums.