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Subject:

21st Century digital curation

From:

Bridget McKenzie <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Museums Computer Group <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 1 May 2008 13:05:18 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (53 lines)

I just posted this on my blog. Any advances on my suggestions about what 
such lead bodies should be doing to invest in 21st century digital 
curation?

"I went to a seminar at UCL last night, to hear Roy Clare, CEO of the 
MLA and Carole Souter, CEO of HLF talking about the future, the funding 
context and how their respective bodies will contribute to curation in 
the 21st Century. I'm not going to supply a full transcript of the 
event, but have picked up a key issue about digital strategy.

Carole Souter insisted that the HLF would not fund digitisation (only 
'real people doing real things'). She conceded that there could be some 
catchy, engaging digital culture projects, for example the Tate's 
campaign inviting the public to buy a brushstroke of a painting. A 
questioner asked 'Call me naive, but surely if digitisation is what we 
are crying out for, why do you make these restrictions?' The response 
was 'We're getting tough with people. You have to look at the breadth of 
our aims. We're an additional funder, not a funder of core activities. 
If you tell us that 200,000 more people are going to look at your 
website because of it, well, so what? How do you know they have really 
been engaged?' So, her suggestion was that if you are going to include 
digitisation into an HLF bid, it would have to involve people in 
specific thematic projects of local interest.

Roy Clare highlighted the NOF Digitise project as an example of where we 
went wrong in assuming that mass digitisation and online publishing of 
collections would be engaging. He said that when he (when at the 
National Maritime Museum) and partners were planning Port Cities 
http://www.portcities.org.uk/: 'Did we think about how anybody would 
ever find it? How they would engage with it?' His response seemed to 
suggest that we shouldn't do digitisation because these projects were 
difficult to market.

However, my argument would be that the NOF projects are an example of 
the limited thematic trap that the HLF approach to digital culture 
encourages. The Port Cities project may not be as successful as it could 
have been precisely because they made too much effort to define a theme, 
to define a collaboration between several museums, to focus on 
particular markets and so on.

What is needed is a flexible approach to digitisation that enables 
collection items to be presented in multiple thematic, social, 
institutional and technological contexts and to be interpreted in 
multiple ways and combined with other collections in multiple ways. 
Investment in a) the continuation of mass digitisation and b) in 
incubating approaches to tagging, indexing, syndicating etc are what we 
need now, and we should see this being championed as the core of 21st 
Century Curation by bodies such as MLA and HLF."

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