By Terry Makewell, New Media Consultant
20 October 2008
Upon initial investigation is is easy to see that the new NZMuseums website is a wonder. This is for both users and museums alike. It certainly seems that it is another step towards the empowerment of local communities throughout the nation as well as the reinforcement of the national collections. It allows for both small and larger museums to upload their content onto this central resource. Alongside this, stories and context are also featured to give a greater insight to the collections of these culturally valuable museums.
Smaller museums often do not have adequate resources (either people or monetary) to tell the stories of their collections to the world at large. These smaller, often regional, museums stand to benefit the most through what could be termed the Long Tail of the national museum sector. By using this central resource (and perhaps availing of direct assistance from the National Service Te Paerangi) each of them will be able to promote their collections to a much wider and diverse audience. The power of these museums, when gathered together, is much stronger than if they were trying to shout their message to the whole at large.
The Te Aroha & Districts Museum is one such museum which appears to have grabbed the ‘bull by the horns’ and started to get their content up onto this great new resource. I remember visiting the museum one sunny day in Waikato and having a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The way that the community spirit shines through in the local history is very apparent as this photograph of a community picnic shows.
The way in which the new website fosters this type of access to local history reminds me of the Exploring 20th Century London website. This website allows the user to explore objects online and view information pages about every decade of the 20th century in London. The main difference between the two websites is that the new NZMuseums website allows the museums to directly take control and upload images of the objects themselves. It is much more empowering. Museums can start by adding in the key pieces from their collections and then expanding this to different sections of their collections. Context can be placed around the objects and tales told.
All New Zealanders are lucky to have such a resource, but the rest of the world should celebrate even more so. We can now sit in our comfortable armchairs with our laptops, at our desks at work, even on our iphones and explore in detail content from museums half a world away.