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Abstract -- Bringing Museums On Line Users Track
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Bringing Museums On Line

Mannoni, Bruno ( mannoni@culture.fr)

Abstract

In most European countries an important effort has been done, often during centuries, to preserve, describe and index the cultural heritage. More recently, many public authorities or private entities have undertaken to digitalise a more or less important part of this heritage. Digitalisation means creating databases containing images, reference documents, factual data, sounds, describing as precisely as possible the items constituing the cultural heritage. Paintings, sculptures, monuments, ancient manuscript, music instruments, historical furniture, art photograph, etc. can be described by digital information, thus offering potentially to a large population of users an easy access to our cultural heritage. This digitalisation effort will have to be carried-on for several years to reach some completeness. Very large information bases containing millions of images and documents are rapidly going to be constituted. Users will ned a transparent and easy access to this information wherever it will be located. It is therefore important to design information system that will make possible effective management of these huge information banks, easy retrieval of the relevant information, that will address the needs of the professional users and that will facilitate the realisation of interactive presentations for the gneral public. To achieve a distributed multimedia information system, since 1992 the ministry of culture in France is setting up a communication network (based on the Internet suite of protocols) linking together 80 sites and 4.000 micro-computers all over France.

Being the first administration in France connected to the Internet (since June 1992) and having full IP connectivity since January 1993, the ministry of culture is experimenting new services prefigurating the use of electronical highways in the future.

The major concern is the contents of the information which will be available. In 1994 the head of museums decided to set up an imaginary exhibition on the Internet: "The age of enlightenment in the paintings of France's national museums." (http://dmf.culture.fr/files/imaginary_exhibition.html). A panorama of XVIIIth-century French painting is presented in this exhibition through the works of one hundred selected artists. In addition to the pictorial world, the history, music, literature and science of the period are recalled in the background to these occasionally little-known works from eighteen museums all over France.

The experience was very conclusive, but questions are still pending on the legal and commercial sides. Nevertheless it has been decided to set up more exhibitions this year, to make them available on the Internet but also on cable TV, and to speed up the numerisation process in France.

The french ministry of culture is also conducting with INRIA a European R&D program concerning multi-media interfaces and database management facing a distributed virtual world wide museums.

These experiments will be discussed at the G7 meeting in Brussels (February 1995).

Work is underway to integrate the W3 technology into the documentary research tools used by the museums. The first demonstration has been made at the MILIA in Cannes in January 1995.