Tom Perera - W1TP



At some point, most collectors find themselves with a growing collection and no convenient way to display it. The tradional solution is to construct some form of display case which will allow visitors to see each of the items, while at the same time providing security and dirt and dust protection. It is a lot of work to build suitable cabinets, though, and many people make-do with salvaged bookcases, filing cabinets, piled-up milk cartons, or even old cardboard boxes. Most of these "solutions" are messy and unsatisfactory and either in recognition of this or in fear that their collection will be stolen, many collectors restrict to a very few people, those who are invited to see their collection. This is an unfortunate situation and now there is a very simple solution.

It is easy and much less expensive than buying or building a display case to put your collection on the internet. People from all over the world will be able to visit your collection at any hour of the day or night. Your collection becomes an international intellectual and research resource that adds to the general level of knowledge of the field. You can provide lengthy descriptions of each item for every visitor without taking the hours that in-person descriptions would take. You can add or subtract items from your collection instantly without having to reprint your catalog. You can offer to buy / sell / trade your specialty items to a much larger group than any paid classified advertising can reach. And, best of all, you can have total security since your items are never physically accessible to anyone. If you wish, you can even protect your name and address by using a business name and post-office box or e-mail address for contacts.

Here's how it works: An internet cyber-museum allows potential visitors to connect their computers to the internet and find the museum by typing key words into a "search engine". For instance, if they are interested in telegraph keys, they would type in the key words "telegraph" and "keys". The search engines constantly hunt through the web and construct immense catalogs of every occurrence of every word they encounter. They are so thorough that a visitor found my cyber-museum by typing in the technical name of an item that I had used on the 15th page of one of my exhibits.

Once the search engine has found the museum and its location or address, a visitor need only type in the internet address (called the URL) of the museum and they are instantly there. They can scan through the exhibits until they find things of interest and then explore them in depth and view detailed photographs of the items. The photographs and textual descriptions can even be downloaded and printed as needed. Both newcomers and experts have told me that they find this instant access to huge numbers of detailed descriptions and photographs to be very useful.

With these benefits in mind, exactly what is involved in creating an internet cyber-museum? First, a description of each item must be typed into a word processor and transformed into the standard ASCII format that ALL word processors are capable of creating. The descriptions are modified slightly by placing simple headers at the beginning and end of the text so that it becomes a document that internet browsers can read.

The next step is to take a set of good quality color photographs of each item in the collection. As part of the developing process, Kodak now offers to convert your photographs directly to a computerized CD disk which contains all of your pictures and can be read or viewed on your computer. A simple conversion program changes the Kodak format to the .gif format that can be put directly on the internet. The conversion program is shareware called Graphic Workshop, and a copy can be obtained by contacting Alchemy Mindworks, Box 500, Beeton, Ontario, L0G 1A0 Canada. 1-(800)-263-1138 or 1-(905)-729-4969. NOTE: The kodak process and the scanning techniques mentioned below may convert the photographs with all 16 million colors. This makes an extremely large file. To reduce the colors to 256 or less, use the "EFFECTS" button in Graphic Workshop and output the file in the .gif format.

Alternatively, you can scan your photographs into digital format using a color scanner and convert them into the proper .gif format that all internet browsers can display. Good color scanners can be purchased for under $100 for hand-held scanners to several hundred for "flat bed" scanners. The scanning can also be done by a commercial shop usually at a minimal fee. Each photograph file is given a name and the written descriptions of the items are modified, by using a simple statement, so that when a visitor clicks his/her mouse on the description, the photograph will appear.

Finally, an internet connection provider is contacted and the text and .gif graphics files are loaded onto the provider's computer system so that anyone, anywhere, can read the descriptions and display the photographs of items that they want to see. The cost of a series of web pages is often included in the cost of connecting to the internet and any additional storage space that might be needed by a large number of picture files is usually very inexpensive.

Web pages can be very elaborate with colored or textured backgrounds, fancy multiple-level graphics and impressive colors and fonts. The problem with these enhancements is that many of them increase the amount of time that it takes a viewer to load and view a page. Many people lose patience with lengthy loading times so I have opted to make my pages as simple as possible.

Unfortunately, the higher the resolution of a photograph, (its ability to reveal fine detail) the larger the file size and the longer it takes to load-and-view the picture. I have opted to make my photographs quite detailed to allow serious collectors to study the keys in detail. As result, some of my photos may take several minutes to view fully if the internet is being heavily used. I am considering the option of posting a second set of "quick-look" photos in which the resolution and size are not suitable for research, but a viewer can get a quick general idea of what the item looks like.

Fine-tuning the museum exhibits in these ways is part of the fun of setting the museum up and, once you have it up and running, you will be amazed at how many visitors will discover your exhibits.

You can easily view the HTML code of any of the pages of this cyber museum by using the view document or text feature of your internet browser. All you need to do is change the appropriate details and use it as a template to help you to create your own internet on-line cyber-museum.

I hope to see you on the web !


Professor Tom Perera
Montclair State University

Internet On-Line Telegraph & Scientific Instrument Museum:
Internet ENIGMA Museum: