Online Museums

Mark Walhimer Online Museum Leave a Comment

Online Museum:(1)

“a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.“

International Council of Museums ICOM, Museum definition, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, on 24 August 2007

With most museums in the USA closed, I have been researching benchmarks for online museums. There are several museum website awards including:

Below I will mention a few of the 2020 winners and make a few comments and notes of observations.

  • Not Location Based – Many “Online Museums” are a mapping of the physical environment of the museum building. A museum is not a building.
  • A Platform for Content – Provides multiple entry points to content and multiple points of view of the content framework

Online Museums:

People Not Property – Historic Hudson Valley

Maybe the closest to what I would think of as an “online museum”. The website and the content is set up in a hierarchy of information that takes the online visitor from major topics to minor topics. The content is impactful and educational. Also, the breadth of the content is on the level of “museum” instead of “exhibition”.

Exoplanets – NASA / JPL

Again what I would consider an “online museum”, given the breadth and depth of the content. I might comment that the website is missing a clear “voice” that unites the visual content for the online visitor.

Online Exhibitions:

The Collection of Hugs – Gosia Nierodzińska

Wonderful mix of emotional design, blending an in person experience with online content. I would categorize as an online exhibition, versus an online museum.

Roo – AI Powered Sex Education Chatbot – Planned Parenthood

A perfect use of online content to allow tennagers to explore sexual questions in a safe environment. I would categorize as an online exhibition, versus an online museum.


Similar to above for an older online visitor audience.

In Process- Gates Foundation

I loved this website, provides valuable information for applying Theory of Change to real world problems.

The Princess Diana Museum – The Princess & The Platypus Foundation

I found the business model very interesting, $9.95 for 24 hour access, $19.95 for one week access, $49.95 for three month access. I did not pay for the access, unsure if I would categorize as an “online museum”.

Exhibition User Interface:

Mapping Chinese Art, 1972–2012: Selections from the M+ Sigg Collection

The level of content is of an online museum, but I would say laking the cohesion of an online museum. Missing an introduction to the importance to all content, more on the level of an online exhibition. Also I would say, more focused on the user interface that the visitor understanding of the framework of content.

150 Years of Nature – Springer Nature

One hundred and fifty years of research content available with an interesting user interface.


Many “online museums” make the mistake of tying the content to the physical building, the power of online museums comes from freeing the content from a physical environment. To date I have only found a couple of websites that I would categorize as “online museums” that include;

  • Multiple “Exhibitions” with the framework for the website
  • Provides a hierarchy of content with multiple entry points

Please tell me if you have any feedback or suggestions for additional online museums. Thank you !

(1) “Museum” definition used to define “Online Museum”

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