Joanna Marchant reminds us (on Digital Heritage) that many museums are busy creating on-line catalogues and other digital access points, but that this is a slow process and that few institutions are utilising the full potential of digitalisation. However, she says, a current research project by Suzanne Keene (formerly Head of Collections at Science Museum, now at UCL),
hints that attention should be turned towards mobilising the current fad of user generated content pages to the cause. If museums are to fully utilise digital technologies to widen access then they should seriously consider how they can tap into sites such as Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia and interactive gaming.
I’m all in favor of using Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia etc. for museum purposes. But utilising these and similar new media for making existing collections accessible to a larger audience doesn’t necessarily mean that the content becomes ‘user-generated’. User-generativity would involve a much more radical redefinition of the sacred status of collections — maybe a kind of ‘profanation’ of them.
PS: The Digital Heritage blog was set up by Kostas Arvanitis for an optional course in the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA programme at the Centre for Museology, University of Manchester. They discuss ideas and experience of using digital technologies and designing and producing digital content for museums and galleries — and they use the blog actively in the course. Great initiative!