1st Edition

Museum Diplomacy in the Digital Age

By Natalia Grincheva Copyright 2020
    164 Pages 22 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    164 Pages 22 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Museum Diplomacy in the Digital Age explores online museums as sites of contemporary cultural diplomacy.

    Building on scholarship that highlights how museums can constitute and regulate citizens, construct national communities, and project messages across borders, the book explores the political powers of museums in their online spaces. Demonstrating that digital media allow museums to reach far beyond their physical locations, Grincheva investigates whether online audiences are given the tools to co-curate museums and their collections to establish new pathways for international cultural relations, exchange and, potentially, diplomacy. Evaluating the online capacities of museums to exert cultural impacts, the book illuminates how online museum narratives shape audience perceptions and redefine their cultural attitudes and identities.

    Museum Diplomacy in the Digital Age will be of interest to academics and students teaching or taking courses on museums and heritage, communication and media, cultural studies, cultural diplomacy, international relations and digital humanities. It will also be useful to practitioners around the world who want to learn more about the effect digital museum experiences have on international audiences.

    1. Introduction. When museums go global and digital: New pathways of museum diplomacy
    2. Digital museum diplomacy
    3. Failures of digital repatriation diplomacy: The Virtual Museum of the Pacific
    4. Digital heritage imperialism: "A History of the World in 100 Objects"
    5. Online power of global brands: YouTube Play
    6. Conclusion. From failures to successes: From the material past to digital futures


    Dr. Natalia Grincheva is an internationally recognised expert in innovative forms and global trends in contemporary museology, digital diplomacy and international cultural relations. She received many prestigious international academic awards, including Fulbright (2007–2009), Quebec Fund (2011–2013), Australian Endeavour (2012–2013) and SOROS research grant (2013–2014). In 2020 she was awarded a Fellowship for her visiting research residency at the Digital Diplomacy Research Center at the University of Oxford. Her publication profile includes over 45 research articles, book chapters and reports published in prominent academic outlets. Her research focuses on the development of new computational methods to study museums and heritage sites as important players in the creative economy and soft power actors. Dr. Grincheva's professional engagements include her dedicated work for the International Fund for Cultural Diversity at UNESCO (2011) and International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (2011–2015), her research industry placement at ACMI X creative hub at the Australian Center for the Moving Image (2017–2019) as well as service for the international Cultural Research Network (CRN) (2018–2020). 

    "This fascinating book applies the theoretical foundations of diplomacy scholarship to the context of online museum spaces. Drawing on two key principles of diplomacy — national projection and cultural relations — it demonstrates that museums’ online activities can offer new avenues for contemporary cultural diplomacy. It describes "the evolution of digital diplomacy from a complete failure to a promising success" through the story of 3 significant museum initiatives from around 2010. Grincheva carries out an exemplary comparative study of these 3 museum-led initiatives and convincingly demonstrates their many entanglements with governmental and corporate agendas, interests, and narratives. She shows how, by careful analysis of these examples, cultural relations work (or don’t). One of the many strengths of this book is Grincheva’s focus on how museums develop online initiatives in this complex context and on what the outcomes are. She painstakingly analyses museum online initiatives to tease out what it is in their design and execution that leads to their success or failure and goes on to suggest what lessons can be learned. Despite recent digital acceleration, Grincheva’s discussions remain highly relevant, particularly as she explores the complex relationships between museums and governments, museums and corporations, museums, history, technology, and the highly contested present. Given this complexity, the challenge for museums of remaining true to their essential purpose is a serious one. This is a rich book which is about much more than this quick sketch suggests. It is also a useful book for museums, governments and researchers to draw on when considering the way ahead."

    ~Stuart MacDonald, University of London, United Kingdom


    "Dr. Grincheva is among a growing number of scholars who are expanding the meaning of cultural diplomacy to include, in her words, "exchanges and interactions among people, organizations and communities that take place beyond the direct control or involvement of national governments." She finds evidence in the way social media give cultural communities opportunity to challenge museum authority in cultural knowledge creation, to "voice opinions and renegotiate cultural identities," and to "establish new pathways for international cultural relations, exchange and, potentially, diplomacy." Her well researched book supports these ideas with three case studies of online museum projects: The Australian Museum’s Virtual Museum of the Pacific in Sydney, the UK’s "A History of the World in 100 Objects," a project undertaken by the British Museum in collaboration with the BBC, and the YouTube Play global contest of creative videos developed by the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Google. Grincheva provides a description and critique of these projects as well as assessments of their political narratives. She argues they provide channels of museum diplomacy through (1) their projection of national cultures and values in the global media environment, and (2) their value as meeting spaces for cross cultural exchange, learning, dialogue, and exposure of political and cultural differences. This is a provocative study that deserves attention and debate. As with other cutting edge inquiries into diplomacy‘s meaning in society beyond governance, it raises an important research question: where does diplomacy stop, and where do other categories of cross-cultural connections begin?"

    ~Professor Bruce Gregory, George Washington University, United States of America


    "The book Museum Diplomacy in the Digital Age is an excellent contribution to the international research at the crossroad of museum management, implementation of new technologies and cultural diplomacy. The author regards online museums as actors of cultural diplomacy, with a deep understanding and analysis of their online audiences. The book pioneers methods and strategies on digital museum diplomacy by using digital and social media technologies to expand museum collections and programs globally, as well as to effectively involve multilingual and multicultural audiences in online experiences. I strongly recommend the book as a useful reading for researchers, academia, students, museum experts and policy-makers who work for developing the museums of the future based on a holistic approach of connection between technology, diplomacy and human experiences."

    ~Prof.Dr. Lidia Varbanova, National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, Bulgaria