As part of its effort to build a worldwide network of museums, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation plans to launch a Web site in September that will feature cultural content from various institutions, including the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the New York Times reports.
The new site, which will offer free content as well as fee-based educational services and a gift shop, will be a blend of art and e-commerce. Other features slated for the site include streaming video and high-quality digital reproductions of sculptures, paintings, and other works.
While the new site, which is a separate for-profit entity from the foundation, has secured high-profile funding from the likes of Softbank Venture Capital, Pequot Private Equity, and G.E. Captial, museum experts warn that online ventures are risky for cultural institutions, especially during an economic slowdown.
"These things are much harder to do than people imagine," commented David Bearman, president of the Pittsburgh-based Archives and Museum Informatics. "The problems that people are having as they try to create content from the digital assets of museums, special collections and libraries are evidence that this is an extremely difficult market to enter into successfully."