And now… for something completely different! I do not know if I have mentioned it, but I have been a low key Geology enthusiast for some time. I am not expert, and no odds are I cannot tell you what kind of rock that is. I have been a member of a local rock club in the Southern California area for around seventeen years now, which sounds crazy when I actually put a number to it.
Anyways, since I have some newfound mediocre Word Press skills, I volunteered to make a new web site for the club, along with a Facebook. As I was browsing through sites of other clubs and geology related links to add to the new site, I came across (at the recommendation of the clubs monthly letter editor) a site that is a ‘Virtual Museum of Geology’. Museum? Me? Who would have thought of that connection!
I know that I have in the past mentioned that my masters dissertation focused on digital museum catalogues, and to what extent they are meeting user expectations and needs. If you want to read more of my rambling about this, click here. But during my research, I became very interested in these not so new online forums that have seemingly failed to capitalize on the broad spectrum and effectiveness of the online community- which is a valid community indeed.
In the wake of my increasingly critical analysis of these virtual museums and catalogues, I can surprisingly say that I rather liked this site.
First things first, let me start with the home page. It was nothing fancy, but it is neatly laid out and has an appealing aesthetic. The menus and sub menus are not confusing, but rather helpful while facilitating a browsing experience at the same time. I like that under the “virtual Museum’ section, the different rock classifications that one would click on look like drawers from an old school museum store- nice touch! The home page also had an embedded link to their Facebook, which of course I liked since it was one of the first things I saw.
In addition, one simple aspect that I feel so many museum-based sites seem to miss out on, are pictures! I do not know how many times I have found an interesting object in a catalogue, only to find that its record has no photo. I am a visual learner with a photographic memory, so the fact that this site had high-resolution photos of all the mineral specimens was something that I enjoyed and appreciated as a novice rock hound. I would say that as far as the individual specimens the site seems to be more focused on identification, as the individual profiles for the specimens only have photos. I would have liked a bit of follow up information on the individual specimen pages, such as a place where the specimen is commonly found, maybe a basic chemical composition, or unique features.
The overall site content was more expansive than I expected. In addition to providing an excellent illustrative reference resource for fossils and minerals, the site also has a shop where visitors can purchase specimens. The site also ticked some of my personal preferences for sites (I say personal because a good site does not necessarily need these in order to be considered a good site) such as more information and follow up resources, such as a ‘Directory of Geology Clubs’, ‘Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Shows’, and a list of locations that are recommended for rock hounding and collecting.
For those who do not know that much about Geology, I would say that the site is explanatory and provides a good amount of material. For example, there is an illustrative timeline of different geological periods, and also sections on the side bar that explain the significance of different locations for specific specimen type collecting, and how they then fit into the timeline. And again, there are plenty of good quality pictures to illustrate what the text is talking about! There is also a chat section with three different forums, and a contact form to ask further questions. I am always intrigued by these features (chat forums and contact forms), they seem like a good idea, but to visitors actually use them? Does it depend on the site content? Food for thought.
Overall, I do recommend this site, if you are just browsing around the Internet or are looking for a good source of geologically related material. Some sections are labeled as being under construction, so I am interested to follow up again and see what kind of content the provider adds. If you are interested in Geology and want to check out this site, you can do so by clicking here.
Also, I was thinking I might consider writing more reviews on virtual exhibitions, and museum digital catalogues? I would find it interesting personally. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!
Peace and long life.