From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal


Vol 5 . . . No 5 . . . January/February, 1996

Virtual Galleries vs. Virtual Museums

What's the Difference?

Should our school build a virtual gallery?
Or should we construct a virtual museum instead?
What's the difference?

Once schools get over the honeymoon phase of Web page development, during which most seem satisfied with self-description, promotion and display, some move on to ask questions of purpose.

Why are we doing this?

One of the best reasons to build a Web site is the opportunity it provides to engage students in making and sharing meaning. Young people gather, display and interpret artifacts and information around some topic such as local history, acid rain, forestry or fishing. This article explores and contrasts the potential of virtual galleries and virtual museums to involve students in such constructivist learning.

For more on constructivist learning.Go by Web to Columbia Simply stated, galleries focus on display. Explanation is relatively limited. "What you see is what you get."

Museums, on the other hand, place a greater emphasis upon theme, interpretation and explanation.

Galleries on the WWW provide schools with a fine opportunity to display and publish student writing and art. Museums can take us much farther, offering a chance for students to plan, develop and publish a multimedia collection around some question, topic or era which deserves exploration and illumination. Students act as curators and designers.

Virtual museums surpass galleries in their capacity to support constructivist learning.

In some respects, galleries are the "end of the road" for student work. Museums are the student work.

Examples of Virtual Galleries

To develop a clear sense of what a virtual gallery might offer a school, it pays to visit a dozen sites, some of which are adult galleries intended to display and market the work of professional artists and some of which are school Web sites proudly sharing the art and writing of students.

Adult Galleries