Online Collections

Yesterday, the New York Times published a very interesting article about the increase in online publications by museums. Some of the salient points made:

  • With their constantly evolving capabilities for representing art and effecting communication, websites are actually driving forces in how museums are adapting to changing times.
  • Online collections for exhibitions and permanent holdings are bound to become standard for museums big and small.
  • Sooner or later, all museum websites will be interconnected, so that any museum might take advantage of scholarship produced by any other.
  • As the demand for digital relevance permeates the museum, how does that influence the ways art is seen, thought about and valued? Do some kinds of art lend themselves more generously to digital representation and to “comparative cultural investigation” than others and therefore come to be preferred? Will global interconnectivity promote homogeneity and less idiosyncrasy?
  • It’s hard to argue against education, access and engagement by any means possible, but something is in danger of being lost in the flood of technologically mediated information: the idea of coming to the work of art naked, disarmed and open to whatever it expresses in its actual, nonvirtual being.

All very good points to think about! But it does strike me that this really is where museums are headed.

The article also mentioned a white paper delivered by John Stack, the head of Digital Transformation at the Tate Gallery, which I found to be particularly interesting and another good starting place when thinking about the digital revolution in museums.