Chapter 25: Digital heritage, by Shannon Wellinton and Gillian Oliver

Chapter 25 tackles the digital: one of the most fast changing and powerful areas of modern society, which, despite its profound impact on museums and other “memory institutions,” is not dealt with adequately within the literature of museum studies, although discussed extensively in related fields such as media studies. Gillian Oliver and Shannon Wellington, who work, teach and research in and between the entities that make up the GLAM sector in New Zealand (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), set out to review the ‘‘digital heritage landscape’’.

This traversal of a complex, fragmented and ephemeral domain treats digital heritage as “more than the sum of these digital media tools and platforms,” and aims to understand “the engagement between cultural heritage and technology through the application of a broader socio-cultural lens.” Taking a multidisciplinary approach, and avoiding the utopian, technical or pessimistic rhetoric that often marks writing on this topic, they review the history, use and application of digital technology in cultural heritage environments, which has now become so ubiquitous that the term ‘new’ media seems obsolete, discussing the opportunities and challenges facing museums today.

They argue that museums “must embrace the opportunities inherent in digital media,” but we “must be mindful to do so within the wider socio-cultural constructs of digital heritage.” This construct, which they refer to as digital heritage, “considers not just the outputs of the intersections of digital and heritage, but also the engaging influence of those intersections with past, current and future practice.”

 

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About mccartco

Conal McCarthy is a former museum professional and academic who has published widely on museum history, theory and practice. He is the Director of the Museum and heritage studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.
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