Bex lecture 5 - digitisation and the museum


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Lecture given on Thursday 6th May to first years on History module "Creating and Consuming History", encouraging them to think about the possibilities of digitisation in museums (the heritage sector/historical research), and the benefits and otherwise of some of the tools currently available.

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  • Now, first to deal with the idea that this is all about the technology!! Those who think it’s all about the technology are called “technological determinists”: QUOTE Now, some of this should be familiar to you from the ‘Landmarks’ module! The idea that in all things, there is Continuity and Change!! We need to remember as Frederic Jameson argues “radical breaks between periods do not generally involve complete changes, but rather the restructuring of a certain number of elements already given (1983, 123)”. So, museums are currently trying to work out which of those elements are going to change.
  • Marshall McLuhan is always quoted as a key example of a technological determinist…, as we can see from the back cover of the book ‘The Medium is the Massage’, a take off of the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ made famous is 1964 from his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man , in which he argued that we shouldn’t focus so much on the message, but on the medium itself. So the way in which you encounter a message, whether it’s through a newspaper, a poster, a book, etc. will change the way that you understand the message within it. Think about how we were encouraging you to experiment with different media within your exhibitions – because we understand that things read differently according to the form that you present them in… e.g. Something in a glass case indicates that it’s “real”, “valuable”, “untouchable”, etc. Something you can “play” with is expected to give you more of an “experience” “as it was”… Something you can “buy”… means you can “own” a bit of the past… Are you getting my drift?!
  • Within these debates, 'Human factors' and social arrangements are seen as secondary! We need to remember that there are many other factors involved in change, some of which may limit or expand the possibilities of technology You may have the technology, but do you have the money, the infrastructure to support it? If not, how is it possible to integrate and use the technology? What political factors – think for example of China, which limits the use of certain elements of the internet – see Google’s response… Legal factors – What is legal/illegal to do? Does this inhibit your right to ‘free speech’ or does it allow an element of trust online?! Social factors – do all your mates use certain tools? What becomes acceptable? If we think in terms of behaviour – an acceptable greeting is to shake hands, maybe, not lick faces, and similar etiquette exists in the different technical spaces. Cultural – e.g. I’m not sure what SMS was first integrated into phones for, but it certainly wasn’t expected that texting would become probably THE biggest use for phones..
  • Parry indicates that similar debates were held in 1968, which were still being held in 2005… designing a system which can be used as a model for other institutions afterwards… - especially the possibilities for expanded access which could come from a distributed but co-ordinated digital network of online cultural content… Some reasons that these had not been actioned in the 1960s/70s were that: We’re well before the age of ‘e-government’, so political expectations and priorities were frequently elsewhere. Visitors didn’t “expect technology” in the way that they now do. Museums underestimated the resources/skills required to go digital Technology tended to be in the hands of the ‘expert computer person’, acting as a barrier to use by curators – even those happy using them indicating that there wasn’t an agreed compatible structure, which caused problems. So organisational structures didn’t adapt, time wasn’t allocated and money wasn’t readily available… Others simply had other priorities which were more fundamental and as this QUOTE indicates, would need to do a lot of preparatory work before they were ready to go digital… always remember that humans are involved in making use of computers, and they have an impact on its use/non-use… and to assume that things HAVE to go digital aligns itself with ideas of Whig progress… that this must automatically offer an improvement!
  • In the initial days of the internet, Wired Magazine , in 1993 said “books once hoarded in subterranean stacks will be scanned into computers and made available to anyone, anywhere, almost instantly, over high-speed networks”… , whilst techno-sceptics indicated that the new media would “pose a dire threat to the search for ‘wisdom’ and ‘depth’…, and Himmelfarb (Jewish, historian, intellectual, and apparently inspirer of Gordon Brown!) QUOTE Note, both of these have become noticeable in recent years… so as academic students you can take advantage of some great books on Google Books, and other classics, but you also need to be CRITICAL users of the internet… I’d only ever expect to see Wikipedia and Spartacus.Schoolnet referred to in reference to what is available popularly, and you’d then need to go to more historical works to bulk this up!!
  • Now, if we look at a handful of works produced around this topic: Jones-Garmil, etc. Very technologically deterministic! Cohen comes up with a great term which applies to my approach – we are neither technophobes nor techno-addicts, but “techno-realists”… who seek to analyse “case by case the interactions between technology and institutions through which the action really unfolds”. We view digital technologies as tools, which have both advantages and disadvantages, and need to look to maximise the former and minimise the latter in order to use the right tool for the job (as has always happened with new tools…). His book is quite a practical ‘how to’ for building a website… Newer versions now more about a theoretical approach... Cameron & Kenderdine maybe over-theoretical, rather hard to read. They argue that some appropriate material has made it onto the conference circuit, but most older published material focuses on particular projects and their technological considerations. We need more discussions “About the meanings and implications of the apparent transformations, challenges, and possibilities posed by communications technologies.” (p3) Parry is largely focusing upon the practice of the museum and the functions of a computer to identify why museums are still having some of the same conversations about digital technology that began back in the late 1960s.
  • Out of these arguments come the idea of the ‘symbiotic relationship’: if we were talking biologically, one can’t survive without the other, but at the very least, talking museums terms, they influence the other… At a basic level, the promises of digital technology are changing the possibilities of e.g. interactions with the public – more active and engaging?, transforming the availability and accessibility of the material? However, museums, which have “earnt” their place as institutions of authority, as custodians of the past, and a part of the intellectual capital of a nation, are having to think about how they interact with this… and with a long heritage of how THEY work, they have influenced the way that digital technology can, has and is being used within museums, as particular ‘cultural practices’ which have been normalised may simply be offered in a ‘digital format’… Museums decide which are APPROPRIATE technologies, ADAPT what they are capable of, INCORPORATE them in with pre-existing material, or TRANSFORM their use… Remember, it’s rare that a single approach is taken across the board, so they’ll be museums which are more advanced, and those which lag behind…
  • Now, one of those things that may have affected the development of the use of computers in museums (remember, since the 1960s was when the debates first started) is the issue of statements such as this from UNESCO. You remember we talked about UNESCO in the early weeks? Influential in defining what is “worth” saving, and not… If we think about how historians now do their research, computers have changed the way that most historians research, write, present and teach about their past: a computer is regarded as basic equipment, Powerpoint, and email have changed even the most basic of users…
  • whilst there’s some of us who use digital cameras in the archive (saves £s, and also can see the ‘original’ textures of a document, etc. – just imagine me trying to DRAW this, or a black & white photocopy… )
  • Here we have a bit of a virtual walk through the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam…
  • blog about what we’re finding…
  • … meet up with others (virtually, later in person maybe) who have similar interests through Twitter, etc… Pretty much every historical journal, archive, museum, society, house, etc. has a website – the quality of which varies, of course… So we need to think about the tools that are available, and which allow us to do our work as historians better (which of course layers on to the question of what is the job/role of the historian… , is it all about quality, gatekeeping, opening access, etc.) ….
  • Digital technology may change things, but these are the tools that we now use in everyday lives, so the museums need to engage with these to engage with modern day culture... As in education we’re told that the larger number of students entering HE with everyday experience of social media/gaming, find HE a bit of a step back as so little time is spent on the interface... Museums also need to think strategically about institutional cultures, methods and relationships with audience… what is going to have to change if they are not to become redundant? These kind of debates aren’t unique to our time – as you may remember from the module on Landmarks, often technological determinism is highlighted – the invention of printing, the invention of the internet, etc... So, in the digital age, we can produce virtual copies, communicate instantly with others all over the world, media slaps us at every turn (especially if we have a smartphone), and we are not limited to our own nation…
  • Now here, we’re working with a list that Dan Cohen provided in his book in 2006 – now think, a lot of things have changed since then, but some of these are still worth thinking about, and of course, as historians, we are interested in the process!! CAPACITY: In 1997, Michael Lesk, a cyber-enthusiast claimed that in the future “there will be enough disk space and tape storage in the world to store everything people write, say, perform, or photograph” – think, how would our history writing be different if ALL historical evidence were available? ACCESSIBILITY: Ubiquitous computer networks mean that, in the western world at least, it’s easier and cheaper to reach (mass) audiences than even before. Unlike the printed media, where the cost of purchasing of a book is partly taken up with paper/printing costs, etc., giving another access to digital media has “zero marginal cost” once the initial investment has been made. Many libraries, because of the delicate nature of their material, only allowed e.g. postgraduates entry, but now, if digitized, resources are available globally, to anyone with internet access! Connections that weren’t possible beforehand are made possible, which can change the nature of the type of research we do. FLEXIBILITY: Digital media is written in Binary Code “1000100110010”, so it can take multiple forms, which can be arranged into text, images, sounds & moving picture – and these can be COMBINED in almost infinite variations – so we can “more easily preserve, study and present the past in the multiple media that expressed and recorded it.” Language is more easily translatable, so, e.g. you may be able to study Italian history even though you don’t speak Italian – nuances may be lost, but the baseline of what is needed is there.. As languages develop, e.g. XML, software can allow us to compare, contrast and make comparisons that couldn’t be made before… In Manchester I wanted us to create an exhibit that contained items, with commentary (effectively your 100 words) from 8 different disciplines… this becomes neater with digital, as the item could be presented virtually, or with virtual ‘commentaries’.. DIVERSITY: So, we have a wider audience of history readers… but now also a wider audience of history WRITERS! You too can write your own blog, and add your own opinions online… as can many other people – and Google’s criteria are different from that of human beings, especially historians – so DO think carefully about whether you need to go past the front page of Google. MANIPULABILITY: We can now find things that weren’t previously evident. The most powerful evidence of this is the simplest – the ability to search through massive quantities of text for particular strings of words… e.g. online, through JSTOR, through archival documents, etc., including patterns on particular themes – including what types of history topics have been popular over the years! This kind of ability is now becoming attached to images, sounds, videos, etc. And we can look at documents in finer detail if they have been scanned in a high enough resolution.. Or even just remanipulate images to see if there’s a different perspective to be had! INTERACTIVITY: Digital media offers a 2-way or multi-way conversation, whereas, e.g. the TV, offers only a 1-way broadcast. Allows more DIALOGUE – including with a wider audience, which can make the findings much richer… and allow new forms of collaboration, new modes of debate and offer new modes of collecting evidence about the past… I’m definitely seeing that with my website! HYPERTEXTUALITY: Sometimes referred to as non-linearity – links data in undirected and multiple ways, so there’s not a single ‘narrative’ to tell, but multiple ways to access material and tell a story… QUALITY: There’s a lot of concern that history on the web is “junk”, full of inaccuracies, and with no quality check processes… this has always been a problem, but it is now possible for those without much skill to produce forgeries more easily and distribute them fast - however, the sheer numbers of people accessing the material means that inaccuracies are likely to be corrected more quickly, and a search of Google indicates the correct information outweighs the incorrect (so don’t just rely on one source). This promotes a lot of debates about the need for ‘authority’, and how we can rebuild structures of trust… DURABILITY: Now, Lesk hoped that we would have a complete historical record, but what is actually happening is that we are losing what is being created in the present as no one has worked out a means of preserving it… well, there are some, but nothing systematic, and there’s doubts about the compatibility of material even once created.. Ties into questions of WHAT should be preserved, by WHOM, and in what FORMAT! READABILITY: There are worries about the difficulty of reading on screen, but screen-readers are dealing with that to a large extent (although I still get more pleasure out of reading a FICTION book, and, having held an iPad on Tuesday, wouldn’t want to read everything from there!)… There’s more issue with how text is read – with the printed text, we essentially have a social contract which defines the structure – the same cannot necessarily be said for internet text, which because it CAN provide so much information, often does… PASSIVITY: Computers tend to offer ‘yes/no’, ‘right/wrong’, whereas historians like to work with ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, ‘it’s complicated’… There’s a drive towards interactivity, but some would argue that interactivity simply allows us to experience more of ourselves, whereas literary narrative forces us to access the lives & experiences of others… now that’s a big one for debate! INACCESSIBILITY: The notion of a ‘digital divide’, if you don’t have a computer, you may not have access to any of this, and even if you have one, how digitally literate are you – so how can you make best use of it… And who OWNS that content that’s on the web – information covered by copyright (around the last 50-70 years, but some longer) can only be used by those who hold rights to the material.., or e.g. journals, which place their material behind massive paywalls, etc.. So this has all been rather abstract – once you’ve done your exercise, we’ll look at some evidence in practice… but as historians, we don’t want to leave all this decision making to technologists and big media companies – we want to be in there – in with the discussions!
  • Whatever you are working on, you must immerse yourself in that world before you can create something… and Cohen notes that it is the most resonant and emotional subjects that have evoked a response (i.e. a strong enough opinion to bother to leave a comment!)… and I have found the same with my WW2 blog – people remember it, and of course now, actively engage with it… If you’re looking to provide a strong historical site, then you’d need to think about whether what you were offering on the site offered a purpose, or whether it is merely gimmickry to make use of the technology! And don’t forget that although many digital projects originate from museums and archives (which have the clout to be able to obtain funding)… there are many ‘born digital’ sites which make use of those unique qualities of the web, and effectively become ‘virtual museums’, with no physical presence elsewhere… so you’d need to think what you thought the pros & cons of that were…
  • Many digital sites do little more than provide virtual reinterpretations of what is already happening in the museum (remember, we said that museum practices influence what is possible digitally, as well as the other way round!) The more innovative ‘born-digital’ sites are created by keen amateurs, rather than professional historians… but DOES widely expand the audience, and offer features not always available in print! TIME: Many museums exhibits are temporary in nature DISTANCE: For physical locations you need to be… physically there SPACE: Opportunities to offer full drafts of items, rather than limited ‘excerpts’ … and think how many times museums have told us that
  • Museums have concerns about the ‘Reproducibility’ & ‘Immaterial’ nature of digital objects… there are many debates trying to redefine relationships between the 2, but with an eye to what new understandings can be brought to material… and the challenge to conventional understanding of museum representations, art, history, and culture.
  • What implications does this have for the acquisition, representation and conservation of collections… in a similar way to that in which the university library has a limited budget, and has to decide which percentages to spend on books, on journals, and on digital acquisitions…
  • And what about ‘virtual museums’, especially those that appear in e.g. Second Life (although this software is dismissed by many, it has a large user base, and those in the know indicate that this is merely the forerunner of greater things to come, once the technology catches up with the ideas)... What are those spaces…, what do they do for people, what do people get out of them (both the builders/providers of space, and those who ‘visit’ them?)… and what is the issue with the fact that often what is produced is an accurate reproduction of real space… maybe the particular qualities of this space need to be rethought… Those who are designing ‘virtual spaces’ need to understand how people are using them, or plan to use them, in order to be able to plan, design, create and monitor the use of such spaces.
  • Right, enough talking from me for a bit… essentially what I want you to do is spend around 10 minutes working on flip-chart paper in small groups (the number of pieces of paper will dictate that). Essentially what I want you to get out of this exercise is a) a break from listening to me b) a chance to discuss some of the ideas you’ve heard and reflect on your own experiences c) produce a list (which doesn’t have to be overly-thought-through) which I would like to photograph/collect later to see what ideas you have… and I can then reproduce them digitally on my blog (address above) where you can come and join in the debate electronically, and maybe some others too… d) a little bit of feedback after the break SUSPECTING THAT THIS IS ALSO TIME FOR A BREAK, so total of 20 minutes, of which only 10 is a break!
  • OK, so we’re going to look at some examples in practice – this may not be the most in-depth analysis you’ve seen, but gives you some starting points to go off and do your own research, and start to see what is ‘really out there’… love to know if you know of other really good ones (and if you’re really keen, if you want to blog about it, subject to any editorial you may do, I’d be interested… be good for your CV?!)
  • OK, having said we’re going to play, we’re coming back to some serious history… my PhD research! I attended a number of events re: creating digital objects, and I was also creating my own websites from around 1997, so lots of interest in digital possibilities – and I like being in on the early days of something too – and I was told that this was quite revolutionary – and I really should have published a paper, but, never mind… So, you can see here some of the benefits of using digitized material over paper-based material (in some ways, took a lot longer, but it’s the thing that has always triggered most interest!), but there are decisions to be made about how the material is going to be constructed/analysed… and I had a concern for the future… although having a few problems with using the database within Office 2007, essentially it still works!
  • Here is a screenshot for entering data into this database. The visibility of the image was seen as key, as it’s all about the visuals, once you reduce it to the keywords, the overall meaning is lost… but the keywords offer a different access point, and a chance to the analyse the material in different ways – e.g. find all the images with ‘flags’ in them – look for similarities & differences in representation. If you’re interested in reading more – there’s a bit more information in the document attached to the slideshow…
  • In entering those keywords, I needed to think carefully about which I was going to use, and to ensure that I was consistent in the use of them… and that others would be able to follow my categories and thus enter data in a future date! This is a section from my thesis in which I have outlined how I am creating my definitions (so although a computer works on a ‘yes/no’ coding basis, my definitions add a human element to the understanding (again, think whether you think this is good or bad!)
  • From the database I created a number of reports, the one illustrated here is my attempt to work out a dateline for posters (almost impossible)… a lot of it deduced from guesswork and hours spent in the archives!
  • As a result of placing SOME of the information from my thesis on my website (I’m so tempted to do it all, minus the pictures, for copyright reasons), I was contacted by the National Archives, and produced most of the commentary for this site… so this is both an example of how having been online I have made contact with someone whom I might not otherwise have done so, and also of an archive using funds to place material online that can be unwieldy to access within the archives, is on fragile paper… but is something that is of great interest to people outside those who are likely to visit the archives (historians, genealogists, journalists, etc.) – and may even encourage them to visit the archives… so be thinking about what The National Archives had to gain by this virtual exhibit…. That was in 2005, so still early days – and BEFORE social networking…
  • In 2006, the following project was completed (2 years too late for me, and I didn’t even manage to get on board the project, gutting!). When I had been trying to access the materials for my PhD, they were in storage in Duxford, and even knowing one of the senior members of staff didn’t give me access to the materials (‘not categorised’, ‘too delicate’, etc.)… and I wondered WHO they were ever going to give access to them for, but clearly they were waiting for technological developments… The project was a 2 year project, and not ALL the material was digitised (one of the things that came through digitisation training, is that decisions must always be made about how many to digitise, and in what quality… do you always go for ‘best quality’ with attendant costs, or for ‘good enough’ – and will there ever be a day when that’s not ‘good enough’… a delicate balance)… material was digitised, categorised, tagged, etc.. And made available on VADS which has lots of great visual historical material – free for use within the academic community!
  • Another thing that the Imperial War Museum got involved in (aside from YouTube which we saw several weeks ago), was attempting a Twitter account (which appears to have rather been abandoned), using the character of “MrsSewandSew” (yes, a wartime poster character), talking as if still existing in the Second World War, but Tweeting non-the-less. Interesting experiment which had some success (around 400+ followers)…
  • If you haven’t already had the privilege of working in Colindale newspaper archives… you’ve missed out, as the collection moves to a more central British Library site! Hopefully you can see in this screenshot the options you have to access old newspapers, and to SEARCH them for words within the text – that dream of searchable images (which is essentially what these are). Note that the newspapers are 1800-1900 – the fact there’s no 20 th Century is likely to be tied up with copyright in some ways, but there can also be other reasons – demand for the material which had already existed in the physical space, any damage done to the material, or…
  • And just a reminder that these and many more are available to you from the Library website… some of them only on campus (it depends whether we have a licence based on Athens passwords, or one that is limited to IP addresses (i.e. the physical location of university computers)…
  • Now, just to highlight a couple of institutions that are/have supported the use of digital resources within history. The Digital Curation Centre offers help and advice to those looking to store, manage and protect digital data. You may have gathered by now that it’s not always the straightforward/easy option, so we need to be clear what value we are getting from it, and once we’re clear on that, how we are going to produce the “best” data possible (usable, accessible, non-redundant)…
  • Another site that was funded by central government until 2008, which was the Arts and Humanities Data Service (along with a few similar services, all dealing with the digital!), with whom I had quite a lot of contact… offering advice, training courses, chances to meet others working on similar projects, etc… It’s funding ran out, but JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee – HE body for the digital world), has archived its material (a little ironic?), and most of the expert staff have been allocated to other roles after JISC restructured..
  • So just a few examples of online historical resources… This is a site from around 2006, not updated since, so can see still FAIRLY early site… Look at their rationale/remit… Think about how this defines their vision – does it limit it or does it make it workable? Pros & Cons (e.g. only those prepared to give away their material for free will be included – is this better than nothing, or do we just reinterpret the material in a different way!
  • Adam Matthew Digital I had an interview with so I’ve always retained an interest in them – at that point digitisation was still fairly new, and most of their energy was still focused on producing microfiche, which they had been doing for a while… These are quite expensive, so their target market is academic libraries…
  • If you’ve never tried microfiche, it’s a real treat – makes you feel seasick, hurts your eyes… but there are now digital microfiche readers (as we don’t want to lose that massive resource that has been invested in, as one type of technology starts to become redundant!) AND of course, the use of YouTube itself is giving access to a lot of visual historical material that had previously been inaccessible – the British Film Institute have put some GREAT material online, as have some other institutions…
  • Proquest is similar – gatekeeping it’s material behind a paywall, so accessible via libraries who can afford the stiff fees – but they would argue that there was a lot of cost involved in creating the material, and that without that, it wouldn’t be available/accessible at all…
  • Another organisation, looking to help preserve FUTURE digital memories… ensuring that material remains accessible & usable!
  • Another one advertising paid collections… , so think about what you think of it… what is their remit, how do they justify their costings, etc? Who is their target audience, how might that change the way they produce the material? What authority do they have?
  • This is one particular set of their collections, which they were particularly excited about when I met them advertising at a JISC event over Easter!!
  • So, what about tourism? In this picture, we see the perfect blend of paper/electronic! A friend & I spent the day in London – we had collected a handful of these leaflets which identified specific walks around London – we chose the war memorials one… As we followed the trail round, the leaflet didn’t give a lot of information, nor did the information on the statue, so… we Googled it (often Wikipedia coming up trumps!).. No need for a hefty great big guide book for us (but who has the authorial voice!!), and we could both look at different sites & compare notes… (remember the module covers heritage institutions also!)
  • One big up & coming trend that is really making a move is the idea of ‘Geolocation’, where your phone’s GPS capability is used to identify where you are… and apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla are making inroads. I’m still experimenting (as are most people), but I can do things like say that “I’ve had a really nice meal in this pub”, and others can see that, and decide they may go there too… Now, I really wanted to tell you about one of my friends from #winchesterweb who is working for a large museum in Cardiff and implementing a big digital project, but he’s not got back to me, and all I can remember is the idea of using your geolocation to identify where you’ve travelled in a museum (or which museum you’ve travelled to - I intend to become the Mayor of Milestones next week – remind me) and identify your path through it – offers some interesting possibilities?! Bit vague, sorry….
  • But what I did see another friend using on their #iPad (yes, they’re not event available in the UK yet!) this week, who has developed Geolocation software for Days Out in Hampshire, which gives information on what is available in Hampshire & where… with an option to submit information to update it. I suggested he might want to think about adding an option to “comment” on what people have thought after visiting – which he said is on his list of potential further developments…
  • Now I mentioned what I wanted to do at the University of Manchester, which would have worked well with what is illustrated here… There’s a “LIVE!Label”, which changes with different Curator perspectives…
  • Now, I think this video is of a QR code in action, but I couldn’t access it last night, so we’ll see, but you can see here, that this is a sort of barcode, which can be used alongside (or, radical, instead of – but then we’d need to provide everyone with an iPod Touch or equivalent to take around?) a commentary box. All you do is ensure that you have an app on your phone which can read it (I use QuickMark), line it up, and it connects to whatever further information is available – most commonly another web page, but it’ll be interesting to see how it develops (especially if they take off in everyday use even more… Martin Tod has been using one in his election campaign!)
  • So, hopefully you can see with this app (which I think was free, I think I’ve only tried the free ones!), I can click on the button, enter specific parts of the Louvre Museum at any time of the day and night, find out more about the work, zoom in closer for more detail (certainly not possible with most physical items, which are protected by ropes/glass, etc, although maybe you don’t get the same textualisation?!), find out about the technical information behind it, and where it is located in the museum (so the assumption is almost certainly that you will be using this as part of a visitor guide!) [One of the big pains with iPhones, etc. is because they DO so much, battery life can be short!!]
  • and here you can see the colourful welcome page, an overview of their current exhibition, a floor plan, special events, information to further information on specific “stuff”, and practical information – so very much about getting people to visit THAT museum!
  • Here we have an interesting app, where if you tap on the mosaic, it opens up more detailed images of dinosaurs – so tied into a specific exhibit. For the Vatican, I only have the ‘lite’ version, so it only allows access to the 3 numbers that are highlighted, once clicked it takes you to more information on something specific, giving an audioclip of the same words…
  • The Portland Museum has been doing research into the possibilities, and has been held up as a bit of an exemplar… if you click into ‘Conversations about art’, you’ll be taken to a choice of artworks, clicking through, you’ll then be taken to a video (for which you’ll probably need wi-fi to play it!) The British Museum Great Court appears to be an architectural app, demonstrating the planning that went into making it – so that will have a VERY specific audience of people like my brother, who worked on the build for over a year!
  • Here, you can pay for audio guides, or listen to a sample online!!
  • What about everyone’s favourite site – Facebook? Well, yes, it has a part to play too! The Imperial War Museum has (within the last year, I think) created its page, using the iconic image of its front view… and you can see quite a lot of interaction is going on, and there’s quite a lot of fans. Gives the museum an opportunity to advertise events, encourage interaction & engagement (and hopefully visitors to the physical site), and may even affect their policies depending upon comments & feedback that they get….
  • A little closer to home, and I did mention this before you went on your visits, I do believe… is the Winchester museums! So if you have pictures of yourself visiting museums, or feedback to give on particular museums, you could really get some local comment going! Again, the Museums are looking for engagement and publicity options… wonder what they really gain?!
  • One of the tools that Winchester City Council (behind the museums) also uses is Flickr, a photo-sharing site. They’ll be looking for help with tagging those images too, I suspect…
  • So, we’ll leave that bit of social media with an idea of how curators feel it has affected them…, with an ability to reach a new and wider audience clearly top of the list!
  • So, now look at some of the new possibilities that digitisation have allowed. Joyce, cheaper to travel to Brussels & use digital camera than to go to London and order online…, and therefore can even access the originals!!
  • Before digital cataloguing, this was the kind of process we would have had to go through with such material as the state papers… Look in the paper catalogues/card files for a reference to the material, cross referencing by walking to another catalogue if necessary Order your material, which would then be collected from one of these physical boxes Receive your material sometimes an hour/a day later, put on your archival gloves and do your research… So how much has digitisation changed this process?!
  • It certainly hasn’t removed every step of that process – it depends… some collections that have been fully digitised would involve: Search online Retrieve document Read online, print if desired, but definitely no need for careful handling (just don’t spill your drink on the keyboard!) However, this is still fairly rare, as digitisation happens at a slow pace, subject to funding, etc., but even removing that first stage can save hours/days… When I first started my research in the National Archives (Public Record Office as it was then), there was no digital catalogue, so I had to go up to London (cost of a trainfare/day out of my time), work through the paper files, which directed me to specific card catalogue entries… (took 2-3 days to find what I wanted to order, and then that had to be ordered on site, took around 1 hour for material to appear) Even when the electronic catalogue was first introduced, it was only available onsite, so still had to travel to London and use a terminal though, although it was FASTER. The initial catalogue was also very much the paper catalogue reproduced in digitial form!! The National Archives then allowed the use of digital cameras (saves a FORTUNE!) – so long as no flash, and the images are only used for your private research (so, see, there are still limitations on their use)…. At around the same time as their catalogue became available remotely (brilliant!)… think how such policy decisions are made – with all that effort on the catalogue, there’d been little time to develop other possibilities, but now more functionality can be added on top!
  • The Foursquare app that we mentioned earlier is an example of Crowd sourcing – another growing phenomenon (essentially every time that you give feedback on Amazon, that is crowdsourcing – any of you heard the fuss about the historian who gave his own book an AMAZING review.. It has its limitations!). Each time people check in, it gives an idea of how popular somewhere is, and if you provide comments on how good the food/atmosphere/exhibits were, then that can encourage other Foursquare users to attend (or Twitter/Facebook, as your Foursquare updates can go there too)…
  • For a more academic use, we can see this project, which has now closed for entries, but decided to collect as many memories as possible whilst there was an opportunity to collect “living memories”, whether it was from those still living, or those to whom the stories had been told. It was a complete experiment, but they have defined it as a great success, and offered them many new insights not only into the First World War, but also into how to manage digital projects… In case you’re interested, here’s how it looks on the iPhone!
  • Now, as we come towards the end, let’s have a final look at Wikipedia… that source that so many of us tell you not to use, or to use with EXTREME caution! Wikipedia is the ultimate notion of crowdsourcing – the information comes from people all over the place – this is both it’s weakness and its strength. In many ways it is similar to using an encyclopedia – always discredited for including factual inaccuracies, but in this case, there are a group of people overseeing the content that is on there, reversing it, providing advice (and every step is logged in a file adjacent to the page, so we can see who is adding/removing information)…. It can actually be quite hard to get on, and the gatekeepering seems to be getting tougher!
  • At this year’s MuseWeb, we saw a big event which looked to ensure that the museum community could have an impact on the kind of information which is available on Wikipedia… if that gatekeeping IS getting stronger, then this could be a side-benefit, in allowing more reliability upon the information… Physical/Virtual Can’t ignore it!
  • And just because you know I will, I’m going to talk about my own experience again… It took me 4 attempts to get myself onto Wikipedia… I was told that my site wasn’t specific enough to just be ‘linked’, so I had to look for information that wasn’t already on there (although much of it comes from my PhD), write it up in a decent form in a way that I thought people would find interesting, and then I could link to my own blog as the source of that information! I get a lot of hits that way, and I need to keep an eye on any inaccuracies that may arise on the site, take a deep breath and reedit it!! However, as a user, I ALWAYS follow up the links at the base and once I have decided that I’ve found something more credible, tend to use that…
  • Bex lecture 5 - digitisation and the museum

    1. 1. Lecture Week 9: Digitisation and the Museum Dr Bex Lewis
    2. 2. Where are we going today? <ul><li>Is it “all about the technology?” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Defining Digital </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Think </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What have you seen/experienced? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What can you see as the possibilities? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Digital Projects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digitisation in Museums </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interactive apps </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Research Opportunities </li></ul>
    3. 3. Technological Determinism <ul><li>“ Technological determinists interpret technology in general and communications technologies in particular as the basis of society in the past, present and even the future. They say that technologies such as writing or print or television or the computer 'changed society'. In its most extreme form, the entire form of society is seen as being determined by technology: new technologies transform society at every level, including institutions, social interaction and individuals. At the least a wide range of social and cultural phenomena are seen as shaped by technology.” </li></ul><ul><li>Daniel Chandler </li></ul>
    4. 4. Marshall McLuhan (1964) <ul><li>“ we become what we behold that we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” </li></ul>1967
    5. 5. Technological Determinism <ul><li>Other Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Parry, p.2 <ul><li>“… today – and for many years to come – our expectations of automated cataloguing must be in tune with practical constraints imposed by the limited resources and technology available to museum collections. Further, there is the welter of problems that must be solved with respect to data standards, preparing collections for cataloguing, and training adequate personnel for the task of computer cataloguing.” </li></ul><ul><li>Quoting Humphrey & Clausen, 1976 </li></ul>
    7. 7. Gertrude Himmelfarb <ul><li>“ Like postmodernism, the Internet does not distinguish between the true and the false, the important and the trivial, the enduring and the ephemeral. … Every source appearing on screen has the same weight and credibility as any other; no authority is ‘privileged’ over any other.” </li></ul><ul><li>November 1996 </li></ul>
    8. 8. Some Key Texts <ul><li>Jones-Garmil, K., The Wired Museum: Emerging Technology and Changing Paradigms , 1997 </li></ul><ul><li>Cohen, D.J., & Rosenzweig, R., Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Cameron, F. & Kenderdine, S. (eds), Theorising Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse , 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Parry, R. Recoding the Museum: Digital Heritage and the Technologies of Change , 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Conference: “Museums and the Web 2010”: </li></ul>
    9. 9. MuseWeb 2010: Some Paper Titles <ul><li>“ On Being Social” </li></ul><ul><li>“ NaturePlus – Developing a Personalised Visitor Experience Across the Museum’s Virtual and Physical Environments” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Delivering Gallery Interactives Using Web Technologies: Multimedia and Web Delivery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 2009” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Van Gogh’s Letters: Or How to Make the Results of 15 y Years of Research Widely Accessible for Various Audiences and How to Involve Them” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The iPhone Effect? Comparing Visitors’ and Museum Professionals’ Evolving Expectations of Mobile Interpretation Tools” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Impact of Blogs and Other Social Media on the Life of a Curator” </li></ul>
    10. 10. Symbiotic Relationship <ul><li>Digital Technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Activate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transform </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Museums/Heritage Organisations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Institutionalised Authority </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Custodians of the Past </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Intellectual Capital’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cultural Heritage: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Appropriate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adapt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Incorporate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transform </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The digital technologies that they adopt. </li></ul>
    11. 11. UNESCO <ul><li>The UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage, 2008 (first adopted October 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>“ The digital heritage consists of unique resources of human knowledge and expression. It embrace cultural, educational, scientific and administrative resources, as well as technical, legal, medical and other kinds of information created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue resources. Where resources are “born digital”, there is no other format but the digital object.” </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    12. 12. Historical Research
    13. 14.
    14. 15.
    15. 16. What defines digital? <ul><li>Digital technology are implicated with historical transformations in language, society, and culture, and with shifting definitions of the museum. </li></ul><ul><li>The Digital Age </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Virtual simulacra </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Instantaneous communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ubiquitous media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Global interconnectivity </li></ul></ul>
    16. 17. Qualities of Digital Information <ul><li>Capacity </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Manipulability </li></ul><ul><li>Interactivity </li></ul><ul><li>Hypertextuality </li></ul><ul><li>Quality </li></ul><ul><li>Durability </li></ul><ul><li>Readability </li></ul><ul><li>Passivity </li></ul><ul><li>Inaccessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Dan Cohen, 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Dangers </li></ul>
    17. 18. Dan Cohen, p18 <ul><li>“ Writing history requires that you first immerse yourself in the styles, conventions, and methods of historical writing and that you understand the different genres of history books, whether scholarly monograph, popular narrative textbook, or reference work. The same holds true for those who want to create history museum exhibits, make history films, and teach history classes.” … and of course history websites. </li></ul>
    18. 19. Exhibits Online? (Cohen, p.35) <ul><li>“ Most digital interpretative historical materials simply translate analogue materials like museums exhibits, scholarly articles, and popular essays to the new medium.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Online museum exhibits, for example, transcend the barriers of time… distance … and space … that have often frustrated museum curators.” </li></ul>
    19. 20. Cameron/Kenderdine, p.4 <ul><li>“ The idea that ‘real’ objects and works of art are under threat, exacerbated by theories of mechanical reproduction and simulation by proponents such as Walter Benjamin and more recently Jean Baudrillard, has had a persuasive effect on the way museum collections and digital objects have been viewed, used, and assigned meaning.” </li></ul>
    20. 21. Cameron/Kenderdine, p.6 <ul><li>“ Cameron illustrates how digital historical collections have been bounded by an object-centred museum culture and material culture paradigms. The author argues that the roles and uses of the digital object must also be understood as part of the broader heritage complex – an institutionalised culture of practices and ideas that is inherently political, socially and culturally circumscribed.” </li></ul>
    21. 22. Virtual Museums <ul><li>Uses & Interpretations? </li></ul><ul><li>Hallmark of authenticity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate 3D replication </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Qualities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Real-time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Immersive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interactive </li></ul></ul>
    22. 23. <ul><li>What have you seen in museums that may fit into the descriptor “digital”? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What worked well? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What needed improvement? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What other ideas do you have for possible uses? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What qualities could you add to Dan Cohen’s list? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>10 minutes to discuss/write ideas on flip-chart paper </li></ul>TIME TO TALK:
    23. 24. <ul><li>A couple of minutes to feedback a few ideas that were particularly interesting… </li></ul>OK, So what did you think?
    24. 25. OK, LET’S PLAY….
    25. 26. PhD Thesis: Database <ul><li>A database is simply a collection of related data, a device for holding structured, machine-readable information together. It is an electronic version of the ‘card box’ system, using a ‘relational database management system’, with relationships defined by the author as the database builder. It saves on the use of repetitive information , as it is difficult to store such information on card indexes without overlapping. It allows for easier multiple access points to the data, which card catalogues can allow in more complex ways. For this project, only a single entry point, by slogan, had been allowed to paper files. </li></ul><ul><li>There are two types of historical database; source-oriented and model-based databases. In the source-oriented database, the source is central and all information related to it is collected . Such information can then be questioned to provide results. The information cannot be regarded as fully relevant until all data has been entered. In many ways the database constructed for this project is a source-orientated database, but it also fulfils the criteria of a model-based database, as questions were formulated first, and the database designed in order to answer those questions . </li></ul><ul><li>The amount of data that can be collected is finite for this project, unlike ‘real world’ data, but due to the difficulties in obtaining information, the database has been designed so that data can be entered by others as and when further information is discovered in the future . </li></ul><ul><li>Lewis, R.M. ‘The Planning, Design and Reception of British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War’, Unpublished PhD: University of Winchester, 2004, Vol 2, p103 </li></ul>
    26. 28. Overall Category Category Why? Identifying? Is there something related to war/anti-war? Armaments War time bullets, etc. Civilian Non-military/ war Damage Damage from bombing/carelessness/crashing, etc. Military War time occupation, etc. Money Savings, etc., particularly needed in war time Peace non- war Time Indicates passing of time, particularly precious in war time Unity Indicates coming together, particularly important in war time. War Indicates event/object associated with war What activity is happening? Action Someone/something doing something Animated Cartoon in action Leisure non-working ( action ) What emotions are evident in the poster? Emotion Guesstimate of emotion. What events are occurring? Event Obvious events Wedding Event happening What graphic styles are identifiable? Design Style Particular artistic style Graphic Shape e.g. square/sphere Text Used as part of/main graphic , a design style
    27. 30. The National Archives: The Art of War
    28. 31. Posters of Conflict
    29. 32.
    30. 33.
    31. 34.
    32. 35.
    33. 36.
    34. 37. <ul><li>“ Digital History is committed to providing high-quality historical resources for teachers and students for free and without advertising. We have been fortunate to develop partnerships with a number of archives and museums that share this vision and have granted us permission to draw upon their resources.” </li></ul>
    35. 38.
    36. 39.
    37. 40.
    38. 41.
    39. 42.
    40. 43.
    41. 44. Tourism…
    42. 45. Geolocation
    43. 46. #iPad: Days Out in Hampshire (app)
    44. 47. Parry, p114
    45. 48. QR Codes
    46. 49.
    47. 50. Graphic Design Museum, Netherlands
    48. 51. Some other trialled iPhone apps (1)
    49. 52. Some other trialled iPhone apps (2)
    50. 53.
    51. 54.!/pages/London-United-Kingdom/Imperial-War-Museum-London/97951440478?ref=ts
    52. 55.!/pages/Winchester-United-Kingdom/Winchester-Museums/204676755114?ref=ts
    53. 56.
    54. 57. Curators: What do you think is the biggest impact of social media? (April 2010)
    55. 58. Research Opportunities <ul><li>How has the process of historical research changed in response to digitisation? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Access </li></ul></ul>
    56. 59. Archives: Pre-Digitisation
    57. 60.
    58. 61. Crowdsourcing <ul><li>A Problem? Too complex, time-consuming or diverse to allow you or a small group of colleagues to successfully answer it by yourselves? </li></ul><ul><li>Crowdsourcing is the term used when this problem is broadcast to a wide audience or community that could solve the problem collectively. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    59. 62.
    60. 63.
    61. 64. MuseWeb Debate <ul><li>April 2010 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Wikimedia@MW2010” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Physical: “Invitation Only” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Virtual: “Crowd-sourcing” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How can museums work more effectively together WITH Wikipedia to provide better information? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Everyone’s first stop, can’t ignore it… </li></ul></ul>
    62. 65.
    63. 66. Conclusions <ul><li>It’s not “all about the technology?” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Digital can be defined in a number of ways and is constantly changing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>You’ve had experience of digital museology, and have developed a more critical approach to it, and may have ideas of future developments. </li></ul><ul><li>You’ve seen a number of new examples, and ways in which historians are using the opportunities available to them. </li></ul>
    64. 67. <ul><li>If so, grab & tag before you go… </li></ul><ul><li>Are you happy that I may take photos of the flipcharts & place on my history blog… </li></ul>Do you want to add anything to the flipchart lists?