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On the exterior side, that is the outreach of our museums, I want to stress that our audiences
expect us to produce new, mostly interactive and personalised access to out collections.That is really
a challenge and, of course, we have to find the new position of our museums, to talk about 15
different museums, we have to find a new position in the information society.We are confronted
with the virtual museum and there is the problem between the museum as a network and the
museum as a building."
Andreas Bienert, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, State Museums of Berlin,
DigiCULT ERT, Berlin, July 5, 2001
As the above expert statement makes pretty clear, museums today are facing many
challenges concerning "back office" operations as well as their interaction with (online)
visitors and users. Some of the challenges addressed, like documentation of objects
(metadata) and long-term preservation of digital objects are dealt with in this study under
the section technology (although not looking into questions like standard databases or
collection management systems).
Here mainly the "exterior" side of museum, galleries and cognate institutions will be
dealt with. Many of these institutions are aware of the fact that if new technologies are used
just to display collections the new opportunities provided by ICTs will be missed.They
realise that their core business has more to do with connections rather than collections,
connecting people in-house as well as online to cultural artefacts by showing relationships
between them, providing contexts, interpretations, explanations, and "telling stories".
Therefore, institutions that traditionally have a strong focus on providing exhibitions
should, as a participant of the DigiCULT Online Delphi articulated, conceive themselves as
"programs", programs that realise narrative connections with cultural heritage objects
which add to new experiences:
"The artefacts represent a post-industrial / post-modernist culture but most of the
cultural institutions that house them are defined by an industrial architecture. A new
interpretation of the word 'museum` or 'gallery` would allow integration of the concept by
'redefining the context`.The cultural institution could be redefined as a 'program` that aims
to create an appreciation for the artefacts where-ever they exist." (Phillip Charlier,
Loundoun House Museum; DigiCULT Online Delphi, June 9, 2001)
The focus in this part of the study will be primarily on how co-operation on various
levels can support museums, galleries and cognate institutions in shifting from an
orientation on collections to new "connections", from "raw data and objects" to creating
rich environments and providing knowledge and new experiences through creative use of
networked multimedia.
The DigiCULT navigator to becoming a hybrid institution
By becoming hybrid institutions, cultural organisations struggle to find the balance
between the analogue and digital worlds. Institutions that become hybrid (national libraries,
research libraries,TV archives, etc.) are forced to bridge two different worlds: the physical
and the digital. In their long history, memory institutions have developed infrastructure
capital that is directed toward the handling of physical objects (written records, manuscripts,
books, film rolls, tapes, pictures, etc.).Today these same institutions also have to deal with the
intangible objects, the born digitals.This will require new overall solutions, the implemen-
tation of new procedures and workflows, and new tools to collect, make accessible, exhibit,
contextualise and preserve these objects.