The concept of Virtual Museum was introduced by the French art historian, writer and politician Andre Malraux in 1947. He imagined a museum without walls and specific location that can be accessed all over the world. Through the following decades, especially during the last 20 years, this idea has been explored and now virtual museum are spreaded all around the earth (or the web).
In 1998, Werner Schweibenz (University of Konstanz, Germany) defined virtual museum as "a logically related collection of digital objects composed in a variety of media which, because of its capacity to provide connectedness and various points of access, lends itself to transcending traditional methods of communicating and interacting with visitors…; it has no real place or space, its objects and the related information can be disseminated all over the world”
Even if it is too "cyberspace-oriented", his definition seems still valid, since this kind of edutainment is now ranging from web-based repositories to more complex 3D reconstructions accessible in a real place or online, realized through softwares commonly used by indie videogame developers (such as Unity Game Engine).
Here are some links to virtual museums/virtual experiences:
Virtual Museum of Canada: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/home/
Virtual Museum of Herculaneum: http://www.museomav.it/?lang=en
Virtual visit at Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perù: http://visitavirtual.cultura.pe/museos/mnaahp/
Virtual Museum of Iraq: http://www.virtualmuseumiraq.cnr.it/noflash.htm
Acropolis of Athens Virtual Tour: http://acropolis-virtualtour.gr/
Articles dealing with Archaeological Virtual Museum experiences, in addition to analyzing the process of digitizing collections, artifacts or creating 3D reconstructions, address the strenghts of this new means of communicating the cultural heritage. The authors underline that virtual museums are space-saving, allow to interact with fragile objects and artifacts that are in non accessible repositories, the interaction between visitors and museum curators and the educational role of these exhibitions.
Here are the articles:
What is your opinion about Virtual Museums? Do you think that they have a greater educational potential than "regular" museums? Could they detach people from the ground, the context, the real archaeological sites?