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24 Hour Museum Survives First 24 Hours

The UK's 24 Hour Museum, the first cyberspace venture to get government recognition as a national museum, has survived an onslaught of visitors during its first 24 hours online. However, the launch has not been entirely without problems.

"The 'wrinkles' are still being ironed out," admitted Jennie Bond of the Campaign for Museums, to uk.internet.com.

Officially launched by Culture Secretary Chris Smith on May 13, the 24 Hour Museum compares itself to the other 12 institutions that are designated as "national collections." They include the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum.

Whereas the other institutions are home to the Elgin Marbles, works by Leonardo da Vinci, and the first fossils ever discovered, the 24 Hour Museum is a Web site. Clearly, it has a long way to go to catch up with the others.

"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," said Smith.

The Campaign for Museums is chaired by Loyd Grossman, best-known as host of a TV cookery show. At the launch he promised that the museum would expand and contain "more and better information" every day. In fact, he said, it will "swiftly become the one-stop shop for news and information for the public."

The 24 Hour Museum has received a start-up grant from the UK Government of £70,000 ($112,000) and will get up to £55,000 ($88,000) this year for maintenance. It plans to link to 300 galleries and Web sites and carry information about all of the UK's 2,000 museums and art galleries.