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Cultural Heritage and the Technology of Culture: Finding the Nature of Illumination in Libraries and Museums


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Cultural Heritage and the Technology of Culture: Finding the Nature of Illumination in Libraries and Museums. Martin R. Kalfatovic. 9th Shanghai International Library Forum. Shanghai, China. 19 October 2018.

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Cultural Heritage and the Technology of Culture: Finding the Nature of Illumination in Libraries and Museums

  1. 1. Cultural Heritage and the Technology of Culture: Finding the Nature of Illumination in Libraries and Museums Martin R. Kalfatovic Associate Director | Smithsonian Libraries | Washington DC UDCMRK @ Twitter 第九届上海国际图书馆论坛 | 9th Shanghai International Library Forum 19 October 2018 | Shanghai, China
  2. 2. 1. Overview
  3. 3. In both its creation and transmission, technology has driven our shared human culture. Galleries, libraries, archives, and museum (GLAMs), in varying forms and modalities, across time and culture, have proven to be the best, though too often fragile, vessels for the transmission of culture through both time and space.
  4. 4. A dangerous idea … circa 370 BCE
  5. 5. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise. Plato. Phaedrus. Trans. Fowler, 1925. 275a
  6. 6. 2. Memory Institutions
  7. 7. Today, through the power of technology, thousands around the country are able to watch this ceremony live. This is the opportunity to build on the contributions of the Librarians who have come before, to realize a vision of a national library that reaches outside the limits of Washington (2016) Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress
  8. 8. As the cyberspace novelist William Gibson has noted
  9. 9. Time moves in one direction, memory in another. We are that strange species that constructs artifacts intended to counter the natural flow of forgetting
  10. 10. II. Increasing & Diffusing
  11. 11. In 1846, The Smithsonian Institution was founded on the principle of the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”
  12. 12. The role of the Smithsonian, as well as GLAMs worldwide, has expanded beyond being repositories for their local communities to cultural trusts for inquisitive minds across the globe. As custodians of a living trust that nourishes the collective human spirit and an engine of change in the increase of knowledge, libraries can both embrace their long legacy and heritage and transform their collections and services for the benefit of current communities and future generations.
  13. 13. 3. Evolving Collections, Services and Roles as the 21st Century Ages
  14. 14. The citadel of the printed word is under heavy siege by newer media of communications: cinema, microfilm, mini-print, telephoto, wire recordings, FM, television, and, in the offing, facsimile newspapers hot off the radio In 1950, long before the web, Dixon Wecter, in The Place of the Library in A University, warned:
  15. 15. More recently, Bethany Nowviskie, Director of the Digital Library Federation at Harvard Library’s Hazen Memorial Symposium (2016), noted in the context of digitization collections: [Digitized collections] are more likely to be taken by their users as memorializing, conservative, limited, and suggestive of a linear view of history than as problem- solving, branching, generative, non-teleological. This is a design problem. We’re building our digital libraries to be received by audiences as lenses for retrospect, rather to be leapt upon by performers, by co-creators
  16. 16. 4. Challenges and Opportunities Increasing and Diffusing: The Smithsonian Experiment Since 1846, the Smithsonian has remained committed to the mission outlined in James Smithson's establishment of the Institution noted above: “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” (Smithsonian Institution 2016). The creation of the Smithsonian Libraries was part of the Act of Establishment of the Institution in 1846: SEC 5. And be it further enacted, That, so soon as the board of regents shall have selected the said site, they shall cause to be erected a suitable building … for the reception and arrangement, upon a liberal scale, of objects of natural history … also a chemical laboratory … , a library, a gallery of art, and the necessary lecture rooms (U.S. Congress 1846).
  17. 17.  Access to Collections  Preservation  Research Information Management  Internships, Fellowships and Education  Social Media, Outreach, and Engaging Diverse Audiences 4. Challenges and Opportunities
  18. 18. The Freer|Sackler Library's collection of Japanese rare books Access to Collections Hand-painted illustration and calligraphy text from Tsuru no soshi (early Edo period)
  19. 19. Preservation Katie Wagner, Book Conservator Preservation of GLAM content now encompasses much more than tending to the physical artifacts that comprise their historical collections. Magnetic and optical media poses a great challenge and potential loss to the record of human creativity. An even more potential holocaust is at hand with the digital manifestations of culture. Initiatives such as the Academic Preservation Trust are key to extending the role of the library in the realm of digital preservation; the museum community lacks similar initiatives, a challenge that must be addressed in focused and broadly collaborative ways.
  20. 20. Research Information Management SIL manages over 85,000 Smithsonian- authored scholarly publications & datasets through Smithsonian Research Online (SRO), is launching an expertise-locator platform called Smithsonian Profiles, and spearheading a movement towards institution- wide Research Data Management
  21. 21. Integration in Smithsonian’s Dashboard Find SRO in the Research section of Research Information Management
  22. 22. Internships, Fellowships and Education Internships, Fellowships, and Education. These are a key component of the cycle of scholarly communication, the use of interns to expose collections, fellows (pre- and post- doctoral) to explicate the same collections, and educators to translate this material into educational materials for younger audiences.
  23. 23. Internships Torre Barnes, Kathryn Turner Diversity and Technology intern
  24. 24. Fellowships In 2017, we hosted 7 Dibner Library fellows, 6 Baird Society fellows and 1 Neville-Pibram Mid-Career Educators awardee Noa Turel, 2016 Dibner Fellow
  25. 25. Growing K-12 Outreach Sara Cardello, Education Specialist Education Providing access to educational resources is a primary goal of the Smithsonian, as noted on the website: All facets of the Smithsonian ... are committed to reaching communities near and far. We connect with diverse audiences, including under-resourced communities and underserved individuals, to enrich programs, curriculum and exhibitions. We invite dialogue and exchange to inspire communities of learners to think critically about complex global challenges (Smithsonian Institution 2018).
  26. 26. Staying Social Over 200K fans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Tumblr
  27. 27. 5. The Dynamo in the Exhibition
  28. 28. At the Paris Exposition of 1900, Smithsonian Secretary S.P. Langley led historian Henry Adams through the halls of the exposition ... Langley introduced Adams to the Dynamo, the electrical generator that would define our current era in its reliance on electricity:
  29. 29. “To him [Langley], the dynamo itself was but an ingenious channel for conveying somewhere the heat latent in a few tons of poor coal hidden in a dirty engine-house carefully kept out of sight ...” Smithsonian Secretary, Samuel Pierpont Langley Henry Adams. The Education of Henry Adams (1918)
  30. 30. “...but to Adams the dynamo became a symbol of infinity." Henry Adams Henry Adams. The Education of Henry Adams (1918)
  31. 31. Today, the lowly, dynamo, is one of the unseen movers that powers our innovation and the force behind our current information-based environment. For Adams, the Dynamo would replace the Cathedral, the electricity generated would create a light that shown on, and that lit up, not one that would illuminate, or show the inner light.
  32. 32. In the glow of our devices, of the computers in our pockets, we see the light of Henry's Dynamo. But what will our cultural institutions use with this glow? Will it be just another “shiny thing” or will it be used to create true illumination and generate knowledge and foster wisdom?
  33. 33. The philosopher Martin Heidegger noted:
  34. 34. The closer we come to the danger, the more brightly do the ways into the saving power begin to shine and the more questioning we become.... Likewise, the essence of technology is by no means anything technological. Thus we shall never experience our relationship to the essence of technology so long as we merely represent and pursue the technological, put up with it, or evade it. Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this Conception of it, to which today we particularly like to pay homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology. Martin Heidegger. The Question Concerning Technology (1954)
  35. 35. 6. In Closing
  36. 36. Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) & the Memex The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great reliability; and something is bound to come of it. Vannevar Bush, in “As We May Think” “As We May Think”. Life (10 Sep 1945)
  37. 37. To return to the Smithsonian, the first Secretary, Joseph Henry, was, in the first decade of the Smithsonian's existence, keenly aware that great institutions must reach outside of themselves: The worth and importance of the Institution is not to be estimated by what it accumulates within the walls of its building, but by what it sends forth to the world.
  38. 38. Cultural Heritage and the Technology of Culture: Finding the Nature of Illumination in Libraries and Museums Martin R. Kalfatovic Associate Director | Smithsonian Libraries | Washington DC UDCMRK @ Twitter 第九届上海国际图书馆论坛 | 9th Shanghai International Library Forum 19 October 2018 | Shanghai, China 谢谢 | Thank You