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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK


24 Hour Museum goes live

Launched in Museum Week

The UK officially launches its 24 Hour Museum on the Internet on Thursday. It is the world's first national museum in cyberspace.

The Website, which is designed to encourage exploration of the UK's museums and galleries, has already been granted a rare accolade.

Loyd Grossman believes the Internet will encourage more people to go to museums
The government's Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, has given it National Collection status. Only 12 other institutions in the UK have received this recognition, including the British museum, the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum.

Launched to mark the beginning of Museums Week, the Website provides information about each of the UK's 2,000 museums and galleries, with links to 300 museums and galleries which already have their own Websites.

Mr Smith said: "The 24 Hour Museum is a giant step forward in improving both virtual and physical access to our museums' collections.

Serious research

"As it develops, it will swiftly become a cyber treasure house of all that our museums and galleries have to offer. But this is more than just an Internet museum for virtual visitors.

[ image: Resources for children]
Resources for children
"It is already a gateway to up-to-the-minute information on where all our museums are to be found, what special attractions they offer and how they can support work in schools, serious research or simply visits as part of a day out."

The Campaign for Museums created the new site, together with the Museums Documentation Association (Mda).

The campaign's chairman, TV celebrity and food writer Loyd Grossman, said the Internet reflected the new image of museums.

The real thing

"Some people have this image of museums being dull and academic," he told the BBC. "That's something only people who haven't been to a museum for 15 years think. The 24 Hour Museum is a way of bringing what museums have to more people."

[ image: There is a museum finder on the site]
There is a museum finder on the site
Mr Grossman said he hoped the site would prompt people to visit the real thing. "All the evidence shows that computer access encourages real visits."

In addition to its start-up grant of 70,000, the 24 Hour Museum will receive up to 55,000 this year to support its upkeep and development.

The 24 Hour Museum is one of a range of government-backed measures to boost access to the UK's museums and galleries. Free admission for children to England's national collections started last month.

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