One of my longheld convictions is that the individual life trajectory is both one of the most neglected and most exciting aspects of biomedicine, not least when it comes to collecting and displaying biomedicine in museum exhibitions. Documents, images and objects from individual scientists, doctors, engineers and patients is a rich resource for museum curators — the individual and personal perspective in exhibitions adds a dimension of engagement similar to how biographical writing engages readers in a way that other forms of historical writing don’t.
Therefore I was quite curious when I read about The Digital Lives Research Conference that will be held at the British Library, London, next week (9-11 February). The aim of the meeting is to bring archivists and curators together with scientists, historians, writers and IT specialists to discuss the challenge of organising and preserving personal digital archives. It will focus on the latest approaches to curating digital objects and archives, on the development of such archives from the point of view of the creators and researchers — writers, scientists and historians — and give an overview of current life-online and digital archives. The organisers are asking how libraries and archives can help people whose lives are becoming increasingly digital to secure, preserve and organise their personal archives of digital photographs, documents, correspondence and multimedia, and, second how to establish relationships with providers of online services and social systems technologies. Read more on www.bl.uk/digital-lives/confreg.html (btw. the conference is free).
I wonder how museums and individual material collections fit into this and similar initiatives? There is obviously more to individual lives than digitalizable photos, documents, correspondence and multimedia. Material things have always loomed large in most people’s lives, but as lives are becoming increasingly digital-based, the non-digitalizable material residue becomes, I believe, increasingly precious. How can museums help secure, preserve and organise such personal material collections? How can such collections be organised and preserved through social technologies? What is the museum 2.0 counterpart to digital lives?