INDEPENDENT STUDY PROJECT PROPOSAL
Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program, University of Washington
I propose to create a prototype for a “virtual museum” on the history of Seattle’s Lake Union. This “museum” will consist of a website with multiple pages of text, photos, graphics, video and audio. I will work on this project in partnership with Seattle’s Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) and its founder Dick Wagner, who is writing a book about Lake Union, entitled Legends of the Lake. I will also write a weblog and an academic paper detailing my experiences during the project.
My academic goal is to explore the possibilities and challenges of creating websites that emulate the experience of visiting brick-and-mortar museums. My professional goal is to produce a portfolio piece while learning how to create a multimedia website. My long-range goal is to obtain funding for expanding my prototype into a full-fledged online museum.
An additional goal is to give the public online access to an archive of oral histories about Lake Union recently compiled by CWB. I hope to demonstrate that placing oral histories within a virtual museum and complementing them with other media can increase their value.
A traditional museum consists of exhibits of various kinds housed within a building. In past centuries these exhibits consisted primarily of artifacts and works of art, but in recent years text, photographs, audio, video and interactive displays have become increasingly important elements of museum exhibits.
The Internet has made it possible to provide these latter types of exhibits to the public without the need for a museum building. In my academic paper I will survey how museum curators, educators and collectors around the world are using the Web to create “museums without walls” and simulate the experience of visiting a physical museum. In my prototype website, I will explore how to apply these techniques in a low-budget project, using commonly available technology.
I will also experiment with techniques for creating a “destination” on the Web: a website where visitors come to explore, linger and savor – just as they do in a physical museum. I hope to show that by making a virtual museum an “immersive” experience, it can become more than just an educational website.
Earlier this year I contacted the directors of CWB and gained their support for my project. My next step will be to meet with Dick Wagner to choose four or five chapters from his book for adaptation into web pages for the prototype.
From Mr. Wagner I will obtain names of local people who can speak authoritatively about each of the topics we select. I will schedule video interviews with these people in scenic locations around the Lake. These interviews will become the introductions and voiceovers for short video documentaries featured on each page of the website.
I will also begin shooting video and still photos of various activities on the Lake intended to illustrate the documentaries and the pages. For historic photos, I will contact the Museum of History and Industry and the University of Washington Library.
Once I have gathered some of this material, I will begin experimenting with designs for the website. I will use a simple, user-friendly web design software called iWeb to create the prototype. If the prototype is successful, I will eventually seek to translate it into a more sophisticated website using Dreamweaver or other means.
I propose to have Kathy Gill of MCDM as my principle advisor. I will seek her guidance in selecting a second advisor, as required, from outside of the program. Kathy has already expressed her interest in working with me on this project.
6. TIME FRAME
I will begin gathering materials for the project in August of 2008. In September I will begin meeting with Kathy Gill and start designing the prototype. I will complete the prototype and my academic paper by the end of the fall quarter, in December. In early 2009 I will meet with the CWB directors to discuss possible continuation of the project.