Week 4 Part 2: Oh, also, the Smithsonian’s digital exhibits are lousy.


The museum was so awful, I forgot to mention how awful its digital component is. Forget me, right?

“What’s the matter, David? Never taken a shortcut before?

      –Shaun of the Dead

Something just occurred to me while reading a fellow classmate’s blog. I completely ignored a big part of our assignment. I was supposed to discuss the Smithsonian NMNH’s online components when I wrote my own story about visiting the museum. I’m very tired, my original post is longer than anyone wants to read, and I really need to get this Week 3 blog post done.

So for the sake of completion, here is my scholarly appraisal of the NMNH’s website:


Can I have my A+ now?

Postscript: Let me clarify why this post is so short. My issues with the museum’s digital exhibits are identical to what I had to say about its physical exhibits. The digital Egyptian exhibit emphasizes a unique kind of exotic strangeness in ancient Egyptian culture (more than deserved, I mean. The message is not “we have little in common with these historical actors,” but “LOOK HOW WEIRD EGYPTIANS WERE LOL”), the digital Hope Diamond exhibit plays up the “mystery” of its subject and patronizes the public’s superstitions about “curses,” etc.

The digital Hope Diamond digital exhibit is especially embarrassing. It features a dramatized documentary that allows people to think they’re learning about history by watching actors in costume reenact the historically insignificant past of the Hope Diamond. Even worse is its strange perversion of audience participation–“vote online to choose the Hope Diamond’s next setting!” These tactics for drumming up excitement and encouraging crowd participation would be great if the museum was focused on educating the public.

As I said in my site review (below), the Smithsonian does not care about public education, but rather the increase of its visitor count. Its exhibits are either focused on object worship or pseudo-intellectual history that dares not to offend.


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