Archive for May, 2008

Ross Dawson on the Future of the Museum

Round at Museum30.ning, Seb posted an article on Ross Dawson’s stalk on the Future of the Museum. You can read his notes here

What strikes me is the ease with which Ross captured the prevalent issues in the sector. This could be for a couple of reasons: perhaps because he is a leading business communications professional or it could be because to those outside of the museum sector, the issues are often blindingly obvious.

In museum circles, the issues raised are often discussed as though they had only just occured. The notion of the ‘media museum’ for instance, has been with us for a long while yet there continues to be extraodinary resistance to the idea of media technology being employed to create cultural interactive experiences.

Ironically, the history of museum ‘experience design’ includes significant examples of technological wonder, for instance: The Great Exhibition of 1851 heralded a new era of cultural event where Universal Exhibitions would define the progress of Western civilisation. The rhetoric of progress, so much a part of the nineteenth century, translated into a call to excel and be productive. Within the doctrine of continued progress, there was an implicit societal trust in technological and material advance. Exhibitions were useful mechanisms through which to display these social and political developments.

In our quest to highlight what is valuable and specific to the museum environment, we seem to forget that the communication of content has always been at the centre of the museum program.
 
Even though I research the museum sector and spend a great deal of time writing about technology, I am increasingly despairing of significant change while the sector itself (apart from bright lights such as work from Powerhouse and Australian Museums), as I listen to the almost deafening silence when it comes to considering the role of technology as central to museum communication.

The museum sector would do well to move away from a sense of its own importance to demonstrating the true value it can bring to lives. As cultural networks proliferate, the museum is ideally placed to lead discussion and debate, to create participatory media and develop the role of the active cultural participant.

Just as it carved out its role as gatekeeper, the future museum can become the leader of digital cultural communication, creating opportunities for co-creation between audiences and organisations by adopting representative curatorial practices.

Until then, it struggles with ideologies it seems to have created despite the excellent research and development that has occured over the past 40 years!


About us

This blog examines social media, cultural institutions and digital participation. It's based on the research projects Engaging with Social Media in Museums and New Literacy, New Audiences. Regular contributors are Angelina Russo, Lynda Kelly and Seb Chan

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