The Lost Museum

Museums on the web are, in general, rather disappointing. At worst a selection of digital images with directions for how to get to the institution, at their best, they use the potentials of the internet to create new online visitor constituent (see the Brooklyn Museum’s Myspace page for instance,
Possibly one of the best ‘virtual’ museums, The Lost Museum is a digital recreation of P.T Barnum’s American Museum in New York, which burned to the ground in 1865. Visitors are encouraged by the man himself to solve the mystery of the fire. You can explore the museum in three-dimensions with innovative use of image, film and sound, search archival material, maintain personal files on the case, and engage with specific objects. There is also a classroom section for linking into classes on American history, Museum Studies and material culture. The project was created by the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at The Graduate Center, City University of New York in collaboration with the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
Any other recommendations for really good ‘virtual’ museums? Or comments about museums on/in the internet?


  1. Here are some other interesting online museums I’ve come across:

  2. To get ridiculously meta:
    This is the Museum of Online Museums (ie links to a bunch of interesting museum sites).
  3. The Newseum takes museuming into the realm of ephemeral daily journalism. It puts the media on exhibit, with archived front page stories, exhibition of political cartoons and maybe most interesting: an instant museum — today’s front page stories around the country. I’d say it is among the best online museums — interesting, well suited and well designed for the medium.
  4. Here is an interesting series called “Strange Museums” by my friend Sean Cole in Boston — sadly, the Dirt Online museum he reported on looks to be defunct now, but the interviews still hold up — and the whole question of what makes a museum — and what drives people to make museums.
    Two Internet archive phenomena that act as museums online, though they don’t use the word…
  5. The Wayback Machine — is an archive of the world wide web. It catalogues and preserves a huge amount of information. If you’ve never seen this before, check it out. You type in any domain name, and it may have different versions of websites… See what looked like when the web was young…
  6. NARA, the National Archives has a wealth of photographic and digital information available online. Its coverage is inconsistent on American history, but has some great, high quality artifacts, moving images, and sound.
  7. The Virtual Museum of Canada is a federally funded effort to create web-specific content around issues of art, community, and multicultural identities. While many virtual exhibits are tied to non-virtual museums, exhibits, and programming, many exist only on the web. It is a clear extension of Malreaux’s “museum without walls,” which has been a very influential concept in Canada. As may be expected, this vital cultural program is having its funding cut under the new conservative Harper government, so its future is uncertain.

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