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Online Collections: A Digital Experience

Technology is an integral part of our society. We spend countless hours checking our emails, browsing social media, and looking up ratings of places before we even visit them. We have the opportunity to connect with places across the world we may otherwise never have the opportunity to visit. The widespread accessibility of the internet allows museums the opportunity to present their collections online, making them more accessible and present within a wider community. With the quick advances in technology, it can be hard to stay up to date in the museum world. Online collections are one way of staying relevant with today’s technologically savvy generation.

A woven hat too damaged for display. Despite what you see, the brim of the hat is warped, with pieces of the interior breaking off with slight movement. The top of the hat is collapsed with its structure being held together by tissue placed inside.

The very first question about an online collection that most museums consider is weather we should create one at all, and if so, how much information should we include? One of the benefits of making the collection available online is that we can share parts of the collection that otherwise cannot be put on display, such as fragile or light sensitive objects. This allows the viewer to experience an object they cannot otherwise experience in person, while preserving the objects at the same time.

So how are online collections made? Online collections begin with the museum’s digital record of an object. New digital records are created everyday, and for some museums this may take years to change all object records into a digital form. For example MOA holds over 2 million objects and only a small fraction have a complete digital record. We also monitor what goes online especially when it comes to culturally sensitive or ceremonial materials since they are protected and not displayed unless special permissions are given. All objects are approached with care and consideration before being placed into public view. Information such as appraisals, donor information, and archaeological site information are also not shared online.

A tintype image, very sensitive to light.

The accessibility of online collections is limited only to the people who have a computer and internet making it easy for people all across the world to access the collections with a simple click. This invites research potential and allows viewers who are interested in a museum to experience the collections if they can not experience it physically. Like museum exhibitions, online collections are not static. They change and evolve with new research and objects.

Not all museums have online collections and the ones that do are hosted on the museum website. With the interest in cultural objects growing, sites that search objects from multiple museums such as the Google Art Project and Artefact Canada give you the opportunity to curate your own collection of favourite items and to learn about objects from all over the globe.

Here is a link to MOA’s Online Collection

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