The Online Presence of the British Museum

The British Museum is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost research institutions. The extensive online collection is a well-organized and useful tool for accessing one of the largest digital collections available from any museum. The collection contains 2,149,655 records which commonly include a high resolution image, archaeological provenience, acquisition information and a basic description of the object often with some additional history and cultural context. This wealth of resources represents a multitude of groups and time periods. Additionally, the search engine for the online collection allows for a high degree of specificity including a date range, geographical and cultural categories that would make this database ideal for a more research-oriented site visitor to find a specific object or limited set of comparable objects.

Drawing from these online collections are dozens of online tours, which focus on specific groups of objects from the online collection that are brought together to tell a story. As opposed to the database which might serve a more scholarly audience that already knows what object they want to see, the section linked above for online tours provides dozens of these tours with a more general audience in mind, showcasing the cultural relevance of selected pieces from the museum’s online collection. While some museums certainly have flashier displays and virtual walking tours of their exhibit halls, the British Museum focuses on providing valuable content rather than making an aesthetically pleasing or innovative online experience. It certainly provides an area of possible future improvement to take their online presence to the next level.

The online resources from The British Museum are typical for what can be expected from digital collections of many museums, but what sets the online presence of The British Museum apart from other museums is the scope of the digitization of its collection. There are 2,149,655 records which represent approximately 3,500,000 objects, and while this is still only a small portion of the total physical collection of the museum, it is far above average size for a digital collection. As museums continue the process of digitization, we can look forward to seeing more expansive online collections on par with this one, but for now in terms of the number of objects available and the information available about them, The British Museum stands out in the area of museum digitization and open access.


4 thoughts on “The Online Presence of the British Museum

  1. Overall I think this is a nice blog post. The introduction was well written. I liked the numbers and facts you incorporated about the British Museum. Although, compared to the length of the blog, you introduction might be a bit long. I’d recommend, instead of shortening the introduction, which again I really enjoyed, expanding on your actual analysis as it was only one paragraph. I know I would enjoy an in-depth visual description of the online tours you talk about. Again though, you have a really nice start to this blog. Your writing is clear and interesting, so the more the better! An elaboration on what you already have would be perfect.


  2. I really like how you point out facts and exact numbers for the collections at the British Museum. It helps add some context to how large the museum actually is. I do think that the reason the British Museum is able to have a larger digital database than most other museums is because they have more resources and the funds to be able to do so. Imputing pictures and descriptions of of each artifact into a database can be time consuming, which can be hard for smaller museums who do not have many staff members to able to do unless, they hire someone to specialize in only that.

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  3. This post successfully examines the different possibilities that come with a museum’s online website with the varying information that can be put on it. Obviously the web is a great way to tour museums that are difficult to travel to for specific individuals. The information on virtual tours was interesting and forced me to consider how taking an online tour might be helpful for a specific audience. The only thing I wish is that the post would have delved more into how the museum itself is effected by having it’s collections on the web. Is this bringing a smaller audience visiting the physical museum? Or is it possibly getting people more excited about visiting the museum? Not sure where you would be able to find this information, but it would be interesting to look into. Great post!


  4. After reading this post and going through the various links provided, I agree that the British Museum’s website is one of the more extensive ones that I have looked at so far. Though the online exhibitions are not really interactive as some of the other websites we have examined, they still provide the viewer everything you need to to know about so many different things across the world. It makes me actually want to visit the museum to see these things in person. When a website can make a viewer feel the need to actually view it in person, I think it has definitely done its job.


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