The Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The Tangible and the Intangible of Heritage Education in E-Learning and Virtual Museums

  • Susan HazanEmail author
  • Anna Lobovikov Katz


Narratives spun around a series of physical objects in a virtual environment may produce a truly compelling story, but does their potency draw on the fact that in spite of their intangible delivery their provenance is clearly deeply rooted in their museum provenance? We trust, either by what we witness with our own eyes or perhaps by what we instinctively know to be true. An institution, such as a museum, is devoted to the custodian care to their collections, and the publics’ certainty of this responsibility cues us to willingly suspend our own disbelief, even when encountered online where we cannot see the physical objects.

Based on a methodology, developed by an EU project for heritage education, we evaluate a specific cultural heritage platform both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to explore how online visitors experience virtual heritage. We will also explore the ways in which educational methodologies can now be enhanced by these narratives and how material objects and physical environments can forge meaningful connections for students as well as museum visitors to explore.

This chapter considers e-learning through the virtual texts, digital images of museum objects and historic sites to sustain the relationship between the tangible and intangible (Galla, Frequently Asked Questions about Intangible Heritage. ICOM News, No. 4, 2003) and investigates the ways in which narratives fold into cultural heritage—or unwraps from them into the virtual reality. We argue that linking to the ancient world or historical texts may well open up new pathways for self-directed learning and creative ways of thinking about ourselves—past and present.


E-learning Virtual museum Shuttle learning Bible Old Testament Manuscript 


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These artefacts shed light on the material culture of Isaiah’s times, serving as a backdrop to many of his prophecies. Only a small number of the objects included here are from institutions or archaeological sites outside of the Israel Museum.

Curated by Dr. Eran Arie, Frieder Burda Curator of Iron Age and Persian Period Archaeology and Dr. Susan Hazan, Curator of New Media, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Visualizing Isaiah was first envisioned and funded by George Blumenthal and the Centre for Online Judaic Studies in order to provide greater access to Biblical texts and the Archaeology of Ancient Israel. (accessed 29.5.16).

English translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll (Masoretic version), Portions copyright © 1997 by Benyamin Pilant, All Rights Reserved. JPS Electronic Edition Copyright © 1998 by Larry Nelson, All Rights Reserved

Photographs by Ardon Bar-Hama were generously supported by George Blumenthal.

The ELAICH project has received funding from the European Union in the framework of EuroMed Heritage 4 Programme under ELAICH grant agreement n° ENPI-2008/150–583 and was developed by the ELAICH Consortium, led by Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. The authors’ appreciation is addressed to all research teams of the ELAICH Consortium for their contribution to the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Israel MuseumJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Technion – Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

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