Museums and the Web

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Object-centred democracies: contradictions, challenges and opportunities

TitleObject-centred democracies: contradictions, challenges and opportunities
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsCameron, F.
Secondary TitleMuseums and the Web 2008. Proceedings
Conference Start DateApril 9-12, 2008
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedMontreal, Quebec, Canada
EditorTrant, J., & Bearman D.
Keywordscollections, documentation, global flows, networks, transdisciplinarity, Web 2.0

Museum collections are increasingly linked to global networks and flows of information. Google-enabled initiatives and the placement of collections information and images in social spaces (YouTube, FlickR, MySpace) allow them to be linked to wider social, cultural contexts, used in unexpected ways in debates, and for political agendas within public culture . Interactions with collections, some planned, others serendipitous, are now happening through these multiple and extended connections of people, ideas and objects, across long distances and national boundaries. Collections space and the meanings, values and significances attributed to them can no longer be considered fixed, given or separate. It is now dynamic, less predictable and networked (Cameron and Mengler 2007). This paper discusses conceptual work undertaken for the Australian Research Council research project Reconceptualising Heritage Collections with the Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney and the Powerhouse Museum. It offers some possible solutions on how museums and collections might operate as complex systems according to Latour's (2005) idea of object-orientated democracies. Here I draw on the results of qualitative research, conversations and workshops with curators, and globally networked communities presenting models for transdisciplinary and socially embedded practices in collections documentation.