© 2008 – Routledge
Why has it taken so long to make computers work for the museum sector?
And why are museums still having some of the same conversations about digital technology that they began back in the late 1960s?
Does there continue to be a basic ‘incompatibility’ between the practice of the museum and the functions of the computer that explains this disconnect?
Drawing upon an impressive range of professional and theoretical sources, this book offers one of the first substantial histories of museum computing. Its ambitious narrative attempts to explain a series of essential tensions between curatorship and the digital realm.
Ultimately, it reveals how through the emergence of standards, increased coordination, and celebration (rather than fearing) of the ‘virtual’, the sector has experienced a broadening of participation, a widening of creative horizons and, ultimately, has helped to define a new cultural role for museums. Having confronted and understood its past, what emerges is a museum transformed – rescripted, re calibrated, rewritten, reorganised.
1. Museum/Computer: a history of disconnect? 2. From the ‘day book’ to the ‘data bank’: the beginnings of museum computing 3. Disaggregating the collection 4. Recalibrating authenticity 5. Rescripting the visit 6. Rewriting the narrative 7. Reorganising production 8. Computers and compatibility
Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide ranging disciplines.
Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).
Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – to include art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.
The focus on the relationship of the museum to its publics shifts the emphasis from objects and collections and the study of museums as text, to studies grounded in the analysis of bodies and sites; identities and communities; ethics, moralities and politics.