Museums are one of the primary forums where the general public learns about past cultures. Many large museums have archaeologists on staff. They not only work in designing exhibits and public education projects, but the are involved in ongoing research projects that may be presented to the public through exhibits.
In an era when traditional governmental support of museums is diminishing, museums must entice the public into providing support. The web offers museums a larger audience than is traditionally possible. The creation of virtual archaeological exhibits has the potential to garner interest in visiting the museum or purchasing publications. Most important they could aid in bolstering public support for archaeological research and funding of both projects and museum exhibits.
However museums have yet to extend their role to the internet. Musuem web sites are used primarily as an advertizing tool. The public is informed of their hours, brief descriptions of what is on exhibit, and enumeration of their research collections. They provide little substantive information on research projects. One of the main missions of museums is research. However, access to this research remains through traditional formats- papers and exhibits.
The National Park Service has an extensive web site. Even though there is a lot of archaeology done on national parks very little of it is presented on the web. ParkNet does provide information on how to volunteer for archaeological projects in the parks. The site is very poor overall in reporting the archaeological work done. There are very useful archaeological databases that are kept by the NPS, but these are research oriented. The Southeastern Archaeological Center of the National Park Service is the best source for archaeological information from the NPS. One of the most interesting presentations is the Outline of Prehistory and History in the Southeastern U.S. and Caribbean Culture Area. The presentation describes the various archaeological cultures and time periods in the Southeast and Caribbean and provides links to the parks which have sites that date to those periods. The Southeastern Archaeological Center also has other presentations on research projects that have been conducted at parks that they regulate.