As mentioned, we’re doing occasional reviews of museum online learning opportunities written for the Spring 2012 class “Museums and Online Learning.” This author has preferred to remain anonymous.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s Collections Central:  Useful, But Not Much Fun

Isn’t it the mission of a children’s museum to make learning fun?

If I were a teacher or a homeschooler, I would find BCM’s Collections Central Online a useful educational resource.  If I were a kid, I would find the site helpful for basic research, but not very much fun.

Good Things

The collection provides access to hundreds of objects from various cultures and eras, with good accompanying information.

The site is easy to use.  Although there is a lot of visual information, navigation is intuitive.  Searching and browsing are both supported.

Browsing creates connections.  If you select an exhibit to browse, you are given a short explanation of the theme and a grid of photos.  Clicking on an image takes you to an object page, which provides basic information about the object and the people who made it.  From here, you are given options to explore “more from the same place,” “more from the same category,” or “more from the same makers.”   These options take you to yet another database of related objects.

Other useful features are the ability to enlarge photos to see detail, the use of questions to organize information, and suggestions for ideas to consider.

Things that Should be Better

The site is hard to find, unless you already know it’s there.  Google keyword searches do not lead you to it.

Language used in information sections needs editing to make it kid-friendly.  More in-depth information and a glossary of terms should be moved to hyperlinked pages.

Non-textual information would give a more rounded experience.  For example, in “What’s That Noise?”, sound recordings would provide knowledge of instruments in a way that a description cannot.  A zoomable map would provide geographical context better than simply listing country of origin.

The ability to “collect” objects would allow users to explore individual connections more freely.

There is an option to “draw what you see.”   Cool, but drawings are not immediately posted to the site.  Instead, there is a “chance” you may see your drawing on a return visit.   A virtual gallery for drawings would provide a better sense of connection to the museum.

There are no games!  Interactive games would make the site more engaging for children.

Overall, it’s a worthwhile site for elementary research, but I can’t really see why anyone would use it for anything else.