Museums and web sites: a Knowledge creating System

Elena Livi, Italy


Elena Livi
University of Florence

Museums and Web Sites: a Knowledge-creating system


Modern museums are organizations producing cultural services; they are means of communication with the public and their main purpose consists of encouraging visitors to see their collections, to gain a better understanding of works of art as well as to have meaningful experiences (Pine, Gilmore, 2000).
Nowadays Information and Communication technologies provide museums with great opportunities to know deeply the cultural demand, to set new relationships with customers and to create new means of communication, so as to reduce the cognitive barriers which are intrinsically high in cultural goods. Recently attention has been focused on the digitalization of cultural heritage as well as on interactive multimedia (Fahy 2003, Fopp 1997), such as virtual communities (Solima,2008) and mobile applications.
Within this framework a relevant role can be attributed to museums’ web sites. They often represent the first contact (the Normann’s truth moment) between museums and different segments of demand as well as the only way to reach the large number of the non-visitors. In addition, what is more relevant is that web sites can allow museums to overcome physical accessibility as well as to differentiate their cultural product.
Web sites have been analysed on a sample including the main arts and scientific museums in Italy, in order to analyse the relationships between the structure of museums’ web sites and the set up of innovative cultural projects. The purpose was to show the mechanisms of spreading explicit and tacit knowledge (Nonaka, Takeuchi,1995) outside museums. International comparisons have been carried out too.
Within web sites different sections, providing commercial news, scientific products and cultural products, have been analysed for relevance and language.
The analysis allows us to distinguish among product-oriented, market-oriented and culture-oriented web sites. In “product oriented web-sites” the scientific section is the most important and the language is for experts only, while in “market oriented web-sites”, attention is focused on attracting visitors through proposals of a wide range of activities, events, courses and trails. On the other hand we can define “culture-oriented” those web sites which facilitate the accessibility to museums both in a cognitive and in a physical way. As regards cognitive accessibility, web-sites provide museums with all those differentiation tools which don’t exist in the real world; interactive spaces, exploring paths and cultural projects can be created in order to guide people within the complexity of collections so as to increase their level of comprehension and appreciation. In addition there is the opportunity to overcome the physical obstacles linked to the display of the collection: works of art which aren’t physically accessible and visible to the public can be virtually shown as well as collections even located in different contexts far from each other can be joined. What they can show is an “impossible museum”.
In that way museums, by acting as competence centres, and by spreading the huge heritage of explicit and tacit knowledge as well as specific know how they incorporate can “build” something culturally new so as to create “Knowledge resource systems” and value constellations including visitors.


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Fopp, M.A. 1997 ‘The implications of emerging technologies for museums and galleries’, Museum Management and Curatorship, Vol. 16, n.2
Kotler, N., Kotler, P. 1997, Museum Strategy and Marketing. Designing Mission, Building Audiences, Generating Revenue and Resources, Jossey-Bass Inc., San Francisco
Lazzeretti, L. (ed.) 2004, Art Cities, Cultural districts and Museums, Firenze University Press
McLean, F. 2003, ‘Costruzione e veicolazione dell’immagine nei musei d’arte’ in Il museo relazionale, Bodo S. (ed.) Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli , Torino
Nonaka, I., Takeuchi, H. 1995, The Knowledge-Creating Company, The Oxford University Press
Pine J.B., Gilmore J.H. 2000, L’economia delle esperienze, Etas, Milano
Solima L. 2008, Social Networks: verso un nuovo paradigma per la valorizzazione della domanda culturale, in Sinergie n.82, 2010

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