This is an unabashedly grumpy post. For most of the Internet era museums have been obsessed with websites and their impact on real-world visitation – often with the assumption that it is detrimental to the latter. The “if we put it online nobody will come” fear seems deep seated and won’t die. It drives not only decisions about what we put online, but also how we do it and how we evaluate websites. Maybe you think my grumpiness is unfair, as there are some legitimate concerns with this question. While the research has advanced and individual museum’s attitudes may mature – this basic question eventually crops up somewhere new, like a bad weed. And when it does, I have to go rattle around and resend links, etc. that help people talk about this question.
They’ll ask, “if we put more and more of our stuff online, are people going to stop coming to our museum?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question…it’s a worry that persists. I’ve developed a pat response:
“Oh my. That’s a real worry. Maybe you haven’t you heard, but ever since the State of Florida started putting pictures of beaches online, nobody vacations in Florida anymore.”
-Paul Marty (TEDxFSU)
No more! To help us all sort this out, I’ve created a Zotero group that I’ve populated with an initial list of relevant research studies on the issue and will continue to keep adding things as I come across them (it is most certainly not comprehensive at this point). Thanks to the authors of many of the reports listed here, I’ve also used their citations, etc. to identify other resources. Please join the group and contribute any surveys, reports, etc. that are missing.
And for gosh sakes, next time this question comes up – send people here!