Museums tomorrow - the haunting spectre of documentation

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The original version of this presentation has been presented in Italian at the ArtFilmFestival 2011 in Asolo (Italy), on 23 August 2011, together with the paper "Musei Domani - Lo spettro della memoria" - posted as well here on SlideShare.
Focus of this presentation (and of the related document) is: what are we going to do with our fading (digital) documentation of museums' (or libraries', or archives') collections?

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Museums tomorrow - the haunting spectre of documentation

  1. 1. AsoloArtFilm Festival 2011 23 AUGUST 2011 ------------- A FORM ENQUIRING ON AUDIOVISUALS AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN MUSEUMS A PILOT PROJECT
  2. 2. Museums Tomorrow The Haunting Spectre of Documentation ALESSANDRO CALIFANO Senior Curator, CRDAV (ROME) Cultural Consultant, UNESCO (AFGHANISTAN)
  3. 3. “ A spectre is haunting museums – the spectre of documentation…” Total, accurate, eternal .
  4. 4. <ul><li>Shahr-e Gholghola (Bamiyan), Afghanistan </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>After a short siege, the citadel of the kingdom of Bamiyan was conquered by Genghis Khan’s men in 1221. All inhabitants – even animals – were killed. What wasn’t taken away was destroyed. </li></ul><ul><li>An important stop on the route of caravans, and a famous Buddhist centre in previous centuries, Bamiyan and its region lost importance from that day on. </li></ul><ul><li>The citadel was never rebuilt. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Bamiyan (Hazarajat), Afghanistan </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>The destruction of the two Buddha statues in Bamiyan by an extremist Taleban faction, in March 2001, surely had a much wider echo on a global level, than the destruction of Bamiyan’s citadel back in the 13 th century. </li></ul><ul><li>But its loss (as the one that happened in Termez or in Merv during the same years) didn’t have lesser significance in erasing a part of our past’s memory… </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Emilio Lavagnino, Cinquanta monumenti italiani danneggiati dalla guerra (Associazione nazionale per il restauro dei monumenti italiani danneggiati dalla guerra, 1947) </li></ul><ul><li>Robert M. Adams, The Lost Museum: glimpses of vanished originals (Viking Press, 1980) </li></ul><ul><li>Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War (Reaktion Books / Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006) </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Considering the titles mentioned above – just a few examples out of a much longer possible list – we must accept the fact that documentation (and the preservation thereof) isn’t, and hasn’t ever been: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>neither total, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>nor accurate, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>nor – and even less so – eternal. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>This is a fact even in our days, at the time of digital documentation and storage. </li></ul><ul><li>Deterioration and obsolescence of electronic storage devices, that we know from the times of clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, and parchment – and maybe even more now than then – are, in fact, much more than a lurking danger. </li></ul><ul><li>They are a matter of certainty. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Is there a way to hinder and delay the vanishing of memory, of the knowledge basis we share? </li></ul><ul><li>We should perhaps transform ourselves – as it happened in the monasteries of the Middle Ages (with the same risks of infidelity to the originals!) – in digital amanuenses , migrating from one system to the next one as technology changes, keeping track, as far as possible, of the information we have been documenting so far. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>But migrating, transforming, adapting – and even: glossing, in order to make what tends to be more and more unclear, once the original context is lost, still understandable – can and will not happen out of the blue. </li></ul><ul><li>Museums, but also libraries or archives, should – once this issue has been acknowledged – open up to specialised departments (and specialised professionals) taking care of it. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Maximum time gaps should be set for letting originals migrate from one form to the next. Best practices should be tested and shared, working tools and spaces organised. Curricula for both access and professional continuing education should be set, and financial and human resources be dedicated to the task. </li></ul><ul><li>This must be the main road to preserve digital documentation through time, and the main bulwark to its too untimely deterioration. </li></ul>

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