Museums of, e.g., byzantine, classical or prehistoric antiquities encounter several extremely severe problems, inherently related to lack of space, of conveying to the visitors the true wealth of exhibits in possesion, and describing the environment where these exhibits are discovered, and how these exhibits are utilised during their ages.
The concept of ‘Virtual Museum’ emerged rather recently as a result of advances in the fields of Computer and Communications Sciences. Specifically, Virtual Museums introduced due to afore-mentioned difficulties and their goal is two-fold: on one hand, to cope with these problems, on the other, to open up new horizons with respect to better registering, studying, and, at the end, utilizing the exhibits.
However, the very nature of a museum, due to its inextricable relationship with the respective site(s) of excavations and its daily interaction with visitors, provides a great challenge for Virtual Museums designers when it comes to introducing information and communication technologies. For example, the well-known information systems, like text/images/multimedia databases, can not efficiently support Virtual Museums since they are designed under a whole different architecture and user interaction perspective. Therefore, the design and development of a Virtual Museum presents new challenges, which obviously can only be addressed with joint efforts of information technology & communications scientists and archaelogists/historians.
Being motivated by the above challenges, this research proposal aims at studying and developing of a new type of Virtual Museum which will capitilize on recent advances in Web, Sensors (RFIDs) and Intranets technologies. In particular, the following will be developed:
a) A new model of Virtual Museum;
b) An electronic repository for all museum’s antiquities, exhibited or not. This ‘warehouse’ will employ database technologies while being oriented towards and optimized for the particular Virtual Museum model;
c) An Electronic Navigation System, termed the Museum Navigator, covering all museum’s antiquities, as well as the areas of the respective excavations. In this way, the immediate and unfettered consolidation of the museum with the archaeological sites will be achieved, thus allowing visitors to enjoy a more qualitative and complete tour. This system can be installed in infokiosks, which will be networked with each other as well as to the repository via an intranet -infokiosks will constitute the Virtual Wings of the museum;
d) A network of sensors (namely, RFIDs), installed in the exhibits’ display cases and the excavations’ monuments. These passive sensors, in conjuction with wireless networking, will be exploited by a new application tailored to provide personalized tours: the visitors, equipped with personal computers -namely, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)- will access the information of the electronic repository; and
e) A special projection room, equipped with wireless networking, for projecting multimedia content and selective “non-linear” tour of the museum.
This new Virtual Museum will pertain to Volos Museum, Magnesia, Greece, as well as the excavations conducted by 13th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, and will be installed in Ephorate’s facilities.
The implementation of this research project will be conducted by 3 greek teams:
a) A team from the Centre for Research and Technology – Thessaly (CE.RE.TE.TH.) -the implementation organization-, with strong background in sensor networking and data management, headed by Professor George Stamoulis, Assistant Professor Panayiotis Bozanis, and Assistant Professor Panagiota Tsompanopoulou;
b) A team from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with strong background in data management, design and development of Virtual Museum, headed by Associate Professor Athina Vakali; and
c) A team of archaelogists from 13th Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities, headed by Dr. Argyroula Doulgeri-Intzessiloglou, A’ level Archaelogist and Director of 13th Ephoriate of Antiquities. This team will guide and interact with computer scientists during all stages of the Virtual Museum development.
The duration of the project is 22 months.