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Exploring the Digital Museum
Dr. Ana Sanchez Laws
Faculty of Arts and Physical Education
Volda University College
+A tectonic shift?
Once a visitor carries a fully
searchable encyclopaedia in their
pocket (not to mention access to
all our collection including the
objects not on display), the whole
idea of a museum and how it
could and should be designed
changes In my view these are
long term tectonic shifts in the
move from 'collections to
services'. (Chan 2011)
Seb Chan / Fresh+New blog
Resources of human knowledge or expression are increasingly created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue resources. Where resources are born digital, there is no other format but the digital original. Digital materials include texts, databases, still and moving images, audio, graphics, software, and web pages, among a wide and growing range of formats. They are frequently ephemeral, and require purposeful production, maintenance and management to be retained. Many of these resources have lasting value and significance, and therefore constitute a heritage that should be protected and preserved for current and future generations. This heritage may exist in any language, in any part of the world, and in any area of human knowledge or expression. (Webb 2003)
Digital heritage is material primarily stored and retrieved in binary format. It may be the product of an analogue to digital conversion or it may be born digital (originate and remain exclusively within the digital domain), and it can include both analogue and digital components. The key difference between digital heritage and other forms of heritage lies in its binary format, which demands distinctive approaches to the conservation of its significance and value.
+Digital Heritage Sustainability
Humanity has the ability to
make development sustainable
to ensure that it meets the
needs of the present without
compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their
own needs (Brundtland,
Environment, and Development
Digital heritage sustainability
involves the collaborative
maintenance, enrichment and
enjoyment of digital heritage
resources over periods of time
that span across generations. It
involves the maintenance of the
integrity of data and metadata
in binary format, and the
maintenance of the digital
technologies that make these
data and metadata accessible
to the broadest range of
Investigating policy and archives, economic factors, social and
To map changing concepts of trust, privacy,
To understand when policies promote or
hinder digital heritage sustainability
Investigating services providers and
As drivers of change with or without the
participation of the community of heritage
Identifying roles and their levels of decision-making
Understanding networks of
accountability and stewardship
Mapping commonalities and
Identifying homogeneity of
Understanding evaluation instruments
(i.e. analytics packages)
Identifying traditional and emerging
Identifying technological features
as producing new rules and constraints
Identifying future technological needs
Understanding the computational modelling of responsibility
How do the various economic, political and social drivers
impact the way in which stakeholders interact around a
digital heritage resource?
Do these contexts promote or deter sustainability?
Who are the presumed, actual, and expected stakeholders? Who is included, who is excluded?
What are their roles (technical, curatorial, non-expert, collaborator)?
How have these roles changed with the use of digital media?
To what extent do stakeholders share the same goals around the digital heritage resource?
What roles do stakeholders have in the decision-making process?
And how does this translate into sustainable or unsustainable management of the digital heritage resource?
How is digital heritage modelled by the language and technologies a digital media service uses?
What are the assumptions in the software analytics packages that sit at the backend of these services, and how do they shape museums digital heritage practices?
How do the types of communication enabled in a given digital media platform contribute to establishing common goals around a digital heritage resource?
Which curatorial practices are applicable to digital media? Which ones are not?
Which digital media practices enrich digital heritage, which ones pollute it?
+Museum of London
Theres a much greater emphasis now on
engaging learners interactively so rather
than the museum being a teacher and
just transmitting information
Its a two way process and we think much
more about the learning needs of visitors
and tailor what we do to their needs we
tend to talk more about learning than
Education has connotations of instructions,
whereas what we want to do is have a
dialogue with people as opposed to
being a formal didactic approach so we
use lots of actors and storytellers and
people doing things as opposed to
people passively receiving. (Wu 2009)
Director, Clore Learning Centre
Image sources: Museum of London, Ana Sanchez Laws
Our whole story of London needed refreshment. The old galleries tell the story of London in quite an inward looking way: it was the story of the city, of the infrastructure, the roads, the search, the transport, very much looking inwards. These galleries were done in the 1970s 80s and 90s so there were some stories that we are interested in today, like migration and identity, that were just not in there. We wanted to tell a new story of London with new emphasis on it, new points of interest. We have two narratives. One is Londons relationship with the world so it is much more outwards looking we have these two big narratives: London and the world and the other one is London and people, people coming to London from the world. In both of these we wanted very much to underline change, so we have got how London changes the world how the world changes London and how people change London and London changes people. (Wu 2009)
RenderingPlanned redesign of caf area
Completed caf area
Interactive in twentieth century
galleriesUsing multitouch screens to present Charles Booths map of
London Poverty in 1887-9
World War 2 display
Image sources: Museum of London, Ana Sanchez Laws
Old galleries Redesigned galleries
Our site is not tailored for just one general visitor. There is the visitor, tourists, the researchers, academics, students who want to research and then we have other museums who want to find out what we are doing. It is four audiences rather than one so each part is tailored towards different audiences. Our learning section would be very different from exhibition section, but our collection section is quite different, because that is for researchers The whole site is not one audience: each part of the site has different voice for different audiences and needs (Wu 2009)
(The blog helps) reach out to people
as MOL employees and showcase the
expertise within the MOL. We are not
just about artefacts and gallery
exhibition events, we are actually more
than that: we are expertise. Every
curator has an expertise that is
valuable, and is showcasing that. (Wu
+ Cathy RossWe are not typical of London museums, we are
not about collections of objects but about
stories and every object has to be eloquent
about the story of London. We have never been
about collections of objects but about
engagement and you may say that is the
corporate culture. (Wu 2009)
+Augmenting the Garden of Australian Dreams
(GoAD) at the National Museum of Australia (NMA)
Ana Sanchez Laws / Stephen Barrass
In collaboration with Cath Styles at NMA and 150 students from Cross Media
The GOAD project Stephen Barrass, Ana Sanchez Laws
1. Walk around and find out what is there.
2. While walking around think about a Journey through the space that could be connected to form a story of some kind.
3. Select at least 5 waypoints along the Journey - graphic, sculptural, geographic, sonic, etc.
4. Document each waypoint using any or all of photos, sound recordings,