A virtual platform is being created to unlock the Australian Museum's world-renowned Pacific Collection for a global audience.

Virtual Museum interface
Virtual Museum interface Image: E Furno
© Australian Museum

The Virtual Museum of the Pacific is part of an ARC Linkage project between the Australian Museum (Vinod Daniel, Melanie Van Olffen, Dion Peita) and the University of Wollongong (Prof Amanda Lawson, Prof Peter Eklund, Prof Peter Goodall, Dr Brogan Bunt).

The Australian Museum, in collaboration with the University of Wollongong, is developing an interactive web-based access tool, the ‘Virtual Museum of the Pacific’, that will enable the Museum to unlock its world-renowned Pacific Collection to a global audience and engage with a range of stakeholders to interact with these collections.

The building blocks of the Virtual Museum of the Pacific are high quality digital images, including some three-dimensional images, and comprehensive data records about the objects from the collection database. The images and data will be accessed through innovative navigational tools, which will cluster similar objects together based on associative descriptors such as materials, techniques and provenance and display them using an attractive interface.

The social media component of the platform will enable Pacific Island community members, researchers, and the general public to add comments, discuss objects and upload their own stories, images and even videos. The Museum is aiming to build strong collaborations with Pacific Island communities and cultural institutions as well as investigate local technologies (such as improved internet access) to support engagement in this virtual platform.

Although this project is still a pilot, the collaboration is revealing interesting insights and it is already clear that the perspective of the communities of origin will enrich our understanding of cultural items in the collections.

The Virtual Museum of the Pacific is one of several ways the Australian Museum is exploring user-generated content, intellectual property and traditional knowledge as a means to promote the exploration of nature and culture.

Story by Melanie Van Olffen,
Collections Officer in Cultural Collections and Community Engagement

Vinod Daniel discussed the Virtual Museum of the Pacific initiative on ABC Radio National on 14 September 2009. Listen here.