Museums in a Digital Age: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Museums in a Digital Age

1st Edition

Edited by Ross Parry


478 pages

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pub: 2009-12-04
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The influence of digital media on the cultural heritage sector has been pervasive and profound. Today museums are reliant on new technology to manage their collections. They collect digital as well as material things. New media is embedded within their exhibition spaces. And their activity online is as important as their physical presence on site.

However, ‘digital heritage’ (as an area of practice and as a subject of study) does not exist in one single place. Its evidence base is complex, diverse and distributed, and its content is available through multiple channels, on varied media, in myriad locations, and different genres of writing.

It is this diaspora of material and practice that this Reader is intended to address. With over forty chapters (by some fifty authors and co-authors), from around the world, spanning over twenty years of museum practice and research, this volume acts as an aggregator drawing selectively from a notoriously distributed network of content. Divided into seven parts (on information, space, access, interpretation, objects, production and futures), the book presents a series of cross-sections through the body of digital heritage literature, each revealing how a different aspect of curatorship and museum provision has been informed, shaped or challenged by computing.

Museums in a Digital Age is a provocative and inspiring guide for any student or practitioner of digital heritage.


Museums in a Digital Age is thus a timely consideration of the role of the digital in the entire spectrum of museum activities…The…volume is…something much more attuned to the digital age which is its basis – a highly diverse, even eclectic, collection of papers broadly centred around the subject of the work.”Historic Environment

Table of Contents

1. The practice of digital heritage and the heritage of digital practice, Ross Parry Part 1: Information: data, structure and meaning Introduction to Part 1, Ross Parry 2. A brief history of museum computerisation, David Williams 3. The changing role of information professionals in museums, Andrew Roberts 4. What is information in the museum context? Elizabeth Orna and Charles Pettitt 5. The world of (almost) unique objects, Robert Chenhall and David Vance 6. Standards for networked cultural heritage, David Bearman 7. Database as symbolic form, Lev Manovich 8. The museum as information utility, George Macdonald and Stephen Alsford 9. Museum collections, documentation and shifting knowledge paradigms, Fiona Cameron 10. Semantic dissonance: do we need (and do we understand) the Semantic Web? Ross Parry, Nick Poole and Jon Pratty 11. Building a universal digital memory, Piere Lèvy Part 2: Space: visits, virtuality and distance Introduction to Part 2, Ross Parry 12. On the Origins of the Virtual Museum, Erkki Huhtamo 13. From Malraux's imaginary museum to the virtual museum, Antonio M. Battro 14. Virtual spaces and museums, Andrea Bandelli 15. The virtual visit: towards a new concept for the electronic science centre, Roland Jackson 16. Empowering the remote visitor, Areti Galani and Matthew Chalmers 17. Museums outside walls: mobile phones and the museum of the everyday, Konstantinos Arvanitis Part 3: Access: ability, usability and connectivity Introduction to Part 3, Ross Parry 18. Access to digital heritage in Africa: bridging the digital divide, Lorna Abungu 19. My dream of an accessible Web culture for disabled people, Carey, Kevin 20. My dream of an accessible Web culture for disabled people: a re-evaluation, Carey, Kevin 21. Implementing a holistic approach to e-learning accessibility, Brian Kelly, Lawrite Phipps and Caro Howell 22. Usability Evaluation for Museum Web Sites, Danial Cunliffe, Efmorphia Kritou and Douglas Tudhope 23. Culture as a Driver of Innovation, Ranjit Makkuni Part 4:Interpretation: communication, interactivity and learning Introduction to Part 4, Ross Parry 24. The Web and the Unassailable Voice, Peter Walsh 25. When the object is digital: properties of digital surrogate objects and implications for learning, Olivia C. Frost 26. Learning by doing and learning through play, Maria Roussou 27. Misconstruing Interaction, Christian Heath and Dirk Vom Lehn 28. Visitors’ use of computer exhibits: findings from 5 grueling years of watching visitors getting it wrong, Ben Gammon Part 5:Object: authenticity, authority and trust Introduction to Part 5, Ross Parry 29. Museums and virtuality, Klaus Miller 30. When all you’ve got is ‘The Real Thing’: museums and authenticity in the networked world, Jennifer Trant 31. Authenticity and integrity in the digital environment: an exploratory analysis of the central role of trust, Clifford Lynch 32. Why Museums Matter, Marc Pachter 33. Defining the problem of our vanishing memory: background, current status, models for resolution, Peter Lyman and Howard Besser 34. Curating new media, Matthew Gansallo Part 6: Delivery: production, evaluation and sustainability Introduction to Part 6, Ross Parry 35. Managing new technology projects in Museums and Galleries, Matthew Stiff 36. Rationale for Digitization and Preservation, Paul Conway 37. Speaking for themselves: new media and ‘Making of the Modern World, Frank Colson and Jean Colson 38. The evaluation of museum multimedia applications: lessons from research, Maria Economou 39. A survey on digital cultural heritage initiatives and their sustainability concerns, Diane M. Zorich Part 7: Futures: priorities, approaches and aspirations Introduction to Part 7, Ross Parry 40. Making the total museum possible, Tomislav Šola 41. Museums in the information era: cultural connectors of time and space, Manuel Castells 42. The shape of things to come: museums in the technological landscape, Simon Knell 43. Digital heritage and the rise of theory in museum computing, Ross Parry

About the Series

Leicester Readers in Museum Studies

Leicester Readers in Museum Studies was launched in 1994 under the editorship of Professor Susan Pearce, the then Head of the Department of Museum Studies. Having continuously developed subject bibliographies since its founding in 1966, in the late 1980s the Department converted these into study packs of published materials for students. These became the basis of the first series of Readers. It was determined that each volume should have a strong editorial vision which would be expressed in a significant introductory essay and in section introductions. Professor Eilean Hooper-Greenhill followed Sue Pearce as series editor. In 2007, Simon Knell became editor of a newly designed and more thematically diverse second series. He invited editors from outside the Leicester department.

Launched in 2019, the third series is focused on the publication of new - rather than previously published - material and with a renewed energy to reflect thought and practice globally. The series welcomes proposals from prospective editors, wherever they may be, who seek to meet the series’ objectives:

  • To produce edited volumes for students, professionals and others who wish to obtain an overview of contemporary thought and practice in the fields of museum, gallery, heritage and curatorial studies.
  • To edit volumes composed entirely or almost entirely of new work. This new work includes writing that seeks to survey, curate and summarise an area of interest; it need not be work that seeks to innovate. The series will also consider the inclusion of previously published work where this work might currently be viewed as obscure, inaccessible or only published in a foreign language.
  • To shape volumes with a strong editorial vision that include a substantial and authoritative introduction that reflects on the content of the book and the book’s subject. It is expected that all books in the series will have a strong sectional structure and include section introductions.
  • To embrace the Leicester vision for inclusive and egalitarian engagement. Contributions to the series may seek to criticise, deconstruct or analyse hegemonic positions and hierarchies, though it is not a requirement to do so. The series will not seek to sustain them.

If you have an idea for a book that you think would be appropriate for the series, then please contact the Series Editor, Simon Knell (, to discuss further.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Museum Administration & Museology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies