The Future of Science and Technology Museums (Part 1)
Reflecting on Mirror: Developing a Knowledge
Management System for Exhibition Developers
Anders Hoeg-Hansen, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
This paper will present an IST EU-funded project, Mirror (World Communities of Practice for Learning and Innovation in natural science, IST-2001-32504). Mirror aims to create a collection of components and tools for a distributed knowledge management system that can support physical and social interactions. It also aims to establish a European-wide community of practice (CoP) for learning and innovation in the area of natural history museums. In order to meet these aims, novel knowledge management techniques in combination with social theories of learning are coupled with state-of-the-art information technologies including Internet acceleration and a 3D multi-user environment. A partnership of research organisations (academia and museums) and companies (IT and consulting experts) with complementary expertise will produce the innovative Mirror methodology in knowledge management and a suite of software components to support the Mirror approach. In this framework, innovation in Mirror lies equally in both the social and technological aspects.
For the development of the first prototype of the Mirror System, a CoP of museum exhibition developers have been chosen but the System shall be general enough to be adapted for other CoP in the future. Basic research into the CoPs of exhibition developers in European natural history museums was carried out in the summer of 2002. The museums which participated include: member-museums of the CASTEX network (RBINS in Brussels, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, the National Museum of Natural History in Stockholm); two UK museums: the National Museums and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff and the New Walk Museum in Leicester; the Geological Museum in Copenhagen; the Gulandris Natural History Museum in Athens; the Natural History Museum in Arhus; and the Verona Civic Natural History Museum.
Based on the results of the research, a web-based 2D mock-up of the System has already been developed and is in the process of being tested with users in the test sites. The “Mirror World” – the end-product - will not strive for realism but will be a “believable” world. The expectation of such a believable world is that the participants will be able to internalise the available mechanisms, the underlying principles of the “Mirror world”, very quickly and then put to use these mechanisms as intuitively as they use available mechanisms in the real world.