November 2004

Unwalled Museums

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Museum lovers heave a sigh of relief. Forget those hassled journeys. Just click on that little mouse by your PC and it will take you to any museum in the world you ever dreamt of! That is the magic of virtual museum, or call it online museum, electronic museum, digital museum, cyber museum. Werner Schweibenz and Andrews, of University of Saarland, Germany, in their book 'Art Documentation', have defined virtual museum as follows. The term virtual museum is “..a logically related collection of digital objects composed in a variety of media which, because of its capacity to produce connectedness and various points of access, lends itself to transcending traditional methods of communicating and interacting with visitors. It has no real place or space, its objects and related information can be disseminated all over the world.”

Interesting virtual museums of the world
While exploring virtual museums around the world, we came across infinite websites. Here are some of the most captivating ones.

We start with the virtual museum of Russia, 'State Hermitage Museum' preserving the collections of works of art (over 3,000,000 items) from the Stone Age to the 20th century. Today the

Museum is creating its digital self-portrait to be displayed around the world. The most interesting part of the site is its virtual gallery link called 'Digital Collection' which houses high resolution artwork images ranging from paintings, drawings, sculpture, furniture and carriages, to jewellery, ceramics, numismatics and other archeological artifacts.

Then there is the 'Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC)', harnessing the huge potential of Internet to preserve Canadian culture. Apart from regular links on events, contact information there are video clips available which are being aired on the History channel, National Geographic channel, Newsworld and so forth.

Back in Asia, we have the dedicated 'Asianart.com' a platform showcasing all aspects of Asian art. With an ambition to offer a forum for scholars, museums and commercial galleries, the site displays highlights of exhibitions in public and private institutions and galleries, presents new discoveries by scholars and connoisseurs.

The site has acted as a voice for many unnoticed cultures like those of the Nepalese and Tibetans. It hosts a link on Nepal's Patan Museum along with a complete documentation of the concepts, construction and realisation of the new Patan Museum. The section titled 'Patan Museum: Collections Highlights' covers a long span of Nepal's cultural history and some rare objects along with explanations of meaning and context within the living traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Another commendable work done by the site is the documentation of Lhasa (Tibet) Archive project. This is a pilot project started in 1996, whereby the 'Tibet Heritage Fund' organised, funded and supervised the restoration of ancient buildings and heritage in Tibet.

Following are some of the best examples of how virtual museums can immortalise a region's rich cultural heritage and link its people to their past.

The example of the Kabul Museum leads the rest here. March 2001, the Taliban in Afghanistan issued an edict to destroy all pre-Islamic statues and objects. What followed was perhaps the greatest loss in the history of preservation

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