Multimedia Research Support for Visiting Scholars in Museums, Libraries, and Universities. (Communications)

Article excerpt

Results are reported from a study conducted to determine the state of the art in the provision of multimedia support by cultural institutions to visiting scholars. In the study, conducted under the auspices of the Getty Research Institute (GRI), Los Angeles, California, experts were interviewed and cultural institutions were surveyed. The following was determined: In most museums and libraries, multimedia support and advanced computer support for scholars is still minimal to nonexistent, while support for scholars in universities is often more substantial. Responsibility for management of new media support is currently diffused among a number of different staff positions in these institutions.


This article reports results of a study conducted to determine the state of the art in the provision of multimedia support by cultural institutions to visiting scholars. As multimedia and advanced computer system use becomes more common, cultural institutions of all types can expect visiting scholars to want to engage in any number of new-media-intensive activities, such as setting up their own multimedia Web site as a cultural or artistic contribution; doing advanced online research and downloading; entering research data into databases to be made Internet accessible; or any of numerous other uses of recently developed information technologies.

The results are drawn from a study funded by the GRI. It was initiated after staff began receiving requests from prospective visiting scholars for various forms of multimedia support during their sabbatical year at the GRI. These requests raised questions about how the GRI could anticipate likely future requests, and what a fair level of support would be. Though the study was originally done for the GRI's own purposes, the results reported here are those that are likely to be of interest to other cultural institutions or to researchers studying multimedia and information technology usage by scholars.

In the following, the methods used are reviewed, then the results presented. The paper concludes with a summary and recommendations section.


Four different methods were used to identify the information needed to answer the GRI's questions: literature and Web-site review, interviews, survey, and Web-site analysis. The literature review, developed by Bates, is available at www.gseis.ucla. edu/faculty/bates/scholars.html and the Web-site review, prepared by Hulsy, is available at www.gseis. media.html. The reviews, prepared in 1999, are very extensive, containing a discussion of scholarly use of information technology, a review of technology/arts-related Web sites, organizations, and other relevant material.

A large number of resources were discovered to be relevant to scholarly use of technology, especially in the arts, but no literature was found that directly addressed the specific questions studied here, namely the needed support for visiting scholars at cultural institutions.

The interviews were targeted at creative and representative leaders associated with various aspects of the survey questions who would perhaps have the insight and foresight about these questions that a survey would not reveal. The survey was intended to provide a rough indication of the range and frequency of types of multimedia support. Finally, the Web-site analyses were done to determine what kind of support had been needed to create various novel and leading edge cultural Web sites. All data were collected during spring and summer of 1998. The data thus constitute a snapshot of the state of the art at that time.


Eleven people were interviewed in sessions lasting up to one-and-a-half hours. Interviewees were selected for their expertise in such areas as academic support for faculty in universities, library management, museum management, digital archives, multimedia design, art history, and the practice of art. …


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