The Digital Museum

Web 2.0 is beginning to change how museums operate–both in terms of building constituencies and collections. It is not merely about putting exhibits up, but far more complicated. Still, I wonder if museums’ understandings of the web as an interpretive tool will change how they build exhibits. Will they make full use of digital spaces? Will it reshape how they exhibit objects or store them? More broadly, is so-called “distributive knowledge collection” really the end goal? What is the role of the curator? of the scholar?  I would remind us that collecting information and making it available, in massive quantities, is certainly different than interpreting collections (even if it is implicitly an approach to collecting in its own right.) Check out this New York Times story: Make History Web Site Is One of Many Online Museums.

One comment

  1. joereed says:

    While it can be disputed whether or not distributive knowledge collections are the goal of museums, it is clear that museums are recognizing that a majority of American citizens connect with history and the broader humanities in a public setting and feel somewhat disconnected from “traditional academic” means of teaching history. In a digital era that is more collaborative in general, it seems natural for museums to situate collaborative means into their systematic methods of presenting history in order to take advantage of the public’s belief in their acceptability. The role of the curator and scholar are likewise continuing to change as well. Scholars and curators must be even more sensitive and mindful to the interests of the public and view themselves as leaders of a “scholastic community” that includes the general public. For some scholars, this will mean the end of a quasi “uplift ideology,” a belief that historians and scholars only can benefit the public through demonstrating what stories, images, and artificats are significant and worthy of mentioning. While historians will always guide the scholastic context of exhibitions and traditional scholarship will be maintained, the web allows the public to have a significant influence on the scholarship being done inside of institutions.

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