Museums and the Web

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Spreadable collections: gaining insights from educational cut & paste

TitleSpreadable collections: gaining insights from educational cut & paste
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsChan, S.
Secondary TitleMuseums and the Web
Conference Start DateApril 13-17, 201
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedDenver, Colorado, USA
EditorTrant, J., & Bearman D.
Keywordsanalytics, collections, education, licensing, metrics, museum practice, user behaviour

Media studies academic Henry Jenkins famously declared that in the digital realm, "if it doesn't spread, it is dead" (Jenkins, 2009). And as Clay Shirky, discussing the future of newspapers, asserted late in 2009, "public reuse produces a kind of value that doesn't just come from publication. It comes from republication and reuse" (Shirky, 2009). Museums, tied as they are to their bricks and mortar strategies, have been slow, if not steadfastly resistant to the notion of the spread of their digital content.Apart from the obvious issues around rights and permissions, it is difficult to track 'spread' or quantify its 'value'. And whilst museums are just beginning to gather valuable insights from how their on-line content and collections are used, tagged and commented on, very few are paying attention to how this same content spreads.This paper looks at the early results of ongoing Powerhouse Museum research which examines the differences in visitor behaviour between viewers and 're-users' of the Powerhouse's on-line collection database. It attempts to compare the users of the on-line collection by all users, only Australian users, and only in-school use by NSW public school students. This research is timely as it follows a general push across the museum sector in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand to 'open up' content with renewed discussions of programmatic access, APIs and trials of open licensing.