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.
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.
"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.
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."
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.