Third Generation Museums — Where Everything Known is Knowable

Bruce Durie & Chris Hutchison
The ECSITE Bulletin, 1 (1996)

Why can I not go to my local museum and have a real-time tour of the Louvre?

Why must I travel to four major art galleries and at least two private collections to see the whole canon of Poussin's work?

What does it matter to me that there is an Apollo spacecraft in this museum or that science centre when I cannot get within one metre of it and have no opportunity to experience what the crew went through?

Where can I go that will allow me to walk around classic Athens, or Ur of the Chaldees, or Solomon's Jerusalem?

Why must I visit a facility in California to take a simulated moon trip?

Why must I take five separate and prohibitively expensive holidays to sample the delights of the five major climate zones?

Why can I find no interactives which allow me to examine all 21 of my body's senses?

And why can't I see what the world was like 570 million years ago?

All of this is possible. Moreover, all of it could be enabled in any museum and made accessible to the world.

We have the technology. All we need is the will.

Third generation museums will be places where the visitors build their own museum experience. Rather than consisting of pre-defined, pre-designed, pre-digested exhibits and activities structured to reflect specific themes (Power, Egypt, The Planets etc) the third generation museum will be enabled to provide a user-defined experience along thematic lines that will be individual to every user and different every visit. Philosophically, they will owe more to Bacon (recall his description of Salomon's House in "The New Atlantis") and Duns Scotus, stressing learning by experimentation and the primacy of individual experience, than to Plato and Socrates.

Bruce Durie, an independent museums and science centre consultant, can be contacted at or [Back]

Chris Hutchison, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems at Kingston University, is contactable at or [Back]