ICT: Generating power of museums?

Right. The remained administration issues with the blog were sorted out and it’s time for our second blog reflection; on week’s 2 discussion on Digital Heritage and its emergence.

On Week 2 we looked at the various developments, both nationally and internationally, that have emphasized the roles of digital technologies in museums and galleries. We saw those initiatives firstly in the framework of Manuel Castell’s notion of ‘informational society’, in which information generation, processing, and transmission become the fundamental sources of productivity and power’; and secondly, in the context of recent and current museological thinking, expressed in publications such as

Wilcomb Washburn, 1984: ‘Collecting information, not objects’, Museum News, 62, 5-15
George MacDonald and Stephen Alsford, 1991 ‘The Museum as Information Utility’ Museum Management and Curatorship, 10: 305-311.
Leonard Will, 1994: ‘Museums as Information Centres’, Museum international, 46(1), 20-25

In this context, we attempted to rephrase Castells and argue that ‘the ability to collect, manage and produce information and interpretations come to be the generating power for museums’.

We also referred to Simon Knell’s paper ‘The shape of things to come: museums in the technological landscape‘ and a section of the European Commission’s Digicult Report, ‘Technological Landscapes for tomorrow’s cultural economy‘, to map out the most significant aspects of the use of new media in museums. We particularly focused on Knell’s idea of ‘technologically mutated museums’ and as one of the groups argued, it is not about ‘revolution’ but ‘evolution’ in museums.

This session has a mirror, which is Week 11, when Dr. Ross Parry from the University of Leicester will be giving a seminar in our course and reflecting on relevant ideas. It would be interesting to see how our thinking about Digital Heritage will have altered (or not) by the end of the course.


To add on the discussion about digital policies and strategies in museums, have a look at the Knolwedge Web initiative of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

I found particularly interesting the following statements and aims:

– museums are considered to be a ‘source that will fuel the knowledge creation of the future’
– museums, galleries and archives are ‘at the forefront of new technology’
‘close links with the broadcast media’ will be sought
‘build an innovative new information gateway, tailored to users’ needs’
‘the Knowledge Web will promote co-operation in the creation, integration and management of digital content’

They definitely offer much food for thought for the next sessions…