On the Capital Children's Museum's Web Pages

In my free time I do some volunteering at the Capital Children's Museum in Washington, DC. This particular children's museum happens to be much more than a museum. It takes seriously its mission to celebrate human culture and creative expression. It excels at helping young minds awaken to the wonders of the world. It supports programs to involve youth actively in creative projects including the creation of video documentaries. Teens have access to a full video production facility. They plan, shoot and edit their own documentaries ¾ sometime even adding their own computer generated animations.

To help you picture the Capital Children's Museum, imagine a huge three storey red brick structure with dozens of exhibit rooms and oodles of nooks and cranies. Soon after the doors open each moring the sound of children's laughter and giggling fills the air. Almost all the exhibits include discovery based learning activities.

And now this museum is going on the World Wide Web. What will result?

In some respects, a web page is an ongoing, evergrowing newsletter. Announcements of events and happenings can be disseminated. Solicitations for volunteer help can be posted. If the museum needs specific expertise, say with a project involving desktop publishing, the web page can contain an appeal for such help. Chances are good that some kind soul in the greater metropolitan community will step forward. Even better, the museum can express publicly its appreciation of volunteers ¾ right on the web ¾ for all to see.

For families and schools in the metro area, the museum's web page is sure to be a treasure. People will be able to plan their visits to the various exhibits at the museum, whetting children's appetites even before they arrive.

Do you think local businesses might take a greater interest in supporting the museum if they can see their names listed on the museum's web page. I suspect they might.

The most important potential of the web site to me, though, is that the museum can now exhibit the creative work of local youth to a worldwide audience. It would not be at all difficult for school art teachers to submit the best of their students' graphic work or music teachers of students' compositions. The museum's web page can add to its own brick building limitless wall space celebrating the creative spirit of the city's youth.

To be sure, it's a bit scary to contemplate how much incoming email this web page might generate. The museum's staff already put in long hours. Answering 3040 email messages per day is no small additional task, and the volume could easily grow to 8090 messages per day within just a few months.

I admire the leadership of the museum for their foresight and courage. The very existence of a home page will let the metropolitan community know that the museum is comfortable extending its presence into cyberspace. And the page will be an implicit invitiation to support the mission of the Children's Museum.

The social ramifications of having a museum on the web are just beginning to be understood. I'm quite sure that many positive things will be happening soon. The musum's original mission, which it has succeeded so well in fulfilling thus far, is going to explode into a whole new dimension. The Capital Children's Museum's Web site.

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