For a look at the future of digital museums, check out the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory's new digital archive composed of thousands of scanned documents from the African leader's life.
With the help of a $1.25 million grant from Google, the center digitized thousands of documents and images that illustrate the life and times of South Africa's first black president. But instead of scanning them and dumping them online for scholars to peruse, the center, with Google's support, created a virtual museum experience -- highlighting certain pieces from the archives, putting them in the context of Mandela's life and then enabling a visitor to the site to go deeper if they'd like.
The exhibit is organized by different phases of Mandela's life, such as "Early Life," "Prison Years," "Presidential Years" and "Retirement." As you move through the different sections, you'll find the earliest known photograph of Mandela, scans of the desk calendars where he scribbled notes during his 27 years in prison, and handwritten notes he sent his daughters -- including one written shortly after the arrest of their mother.
Although Google provided money and technical support for the project through the Google Cultural Insitute, Verne Harris, head of memory programming at the Centre of Memory, made it clear that the center is still firmly in control of presentation choices and the material used.