From the Real to the Virtual: The Re-Presentation of the Spatiality of the Museum on Its Website
The museum is not only a transmitter of information about objects, but also ‘a technology in its own right’: the spatial and conceptual arrangement of its display and the architectural layout of its spaces, which together constitute the spatiality of the museum, act as media that generate and structure the way it presents knowledge. This paper explores whether museums seek to re-present their spatiality in the virtual sphere of the website, and if so, in what ways and why. Studies of the use of websites which stress interdependence with the real museum, provide the grounding for these questions. Forty-three websites of the most visited European museums are analyzed, on the basis of 16 themes that index spatiality. The paper clarifies high variability in the way they interpret spatiality, distinguishing three modes of relating real and virtual: the synergetic, the presentational and the discursive. Methodologically, a conceptual framework is developed for interpreting these strategic differences. Theoretically, website design is related to museum theory, in that the philosophy among leading museums to transmit their spatiality powerfully through the website can be theorized as reflecting a performing, rather than informing, museological approach, and a move towards a more ‘participatory’ website culture.
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