Avgoustinos Avgousti and Georgios Papaioannou (The Cyprus Institute at The Science and Technology in Archeology and Culture Research Center)

Small Museums Collections (Not) Online

Cultural heritage digitization and online accessibility offer an unprecedented opportunity to democratize museum collections. Online collections, typically presented on institutional websites, are more than an adaptation to keep up. They represent the world’s culture. The collections form an increasing trend toward a world where information is digitally preserved, stored, accessed, and disseminated instantaneously through a global and concatenated digital network.

However, while the Web has enabled cultural heritage institutions to democratize their collections to diverse audiences, many small museums do not enjoy the fruits of this digital revolution. The majority of small museums do not have their collections online (publishing content for human consumption).

In addition, nowadays, our consumers include machines that must be able to comprehend and utilize the content in the same way as humans (publishing content for machine consumption). We no longer publish content just for human consumption; the techniques we structure and publish content have fundamentally changed. While browsers can display web content based on the markup, the meaning of content can only be understood by the human mind.

Small museums that manage to publish their collections online usually do not use structured or linked related content. In other words, the human-readable words of traditional web pages are not associated with any specific machine consumable syntax or structure. As a result, the information provided by online collections may be ambiguous to search engines and other machines.

Due to the aforementioned problems, small museum collections are mainly inaccessible and hidden. Subsequently, people have less access to information which can lead to future knowledge.