#DayofDH Museums and digital technology: concurrence or convergence?

When digital technologies began to invade our lives, museums seemed to be condemned to the past, while people were been increasingly seduced by new forms of entertainment, more dynamic, more interactive, more spectacular and more immediately rewarding. Should it be the end of museum era (as the end of theatre, cinema, or book era)?

In museums, some curators tried to consolidate the institution in its always framework: an erudite, sober and unchangeable, place with a high knowledge content, in contrast to  the “non-places” of our supermodernity, as described by Marc Augé (1992), or to the ever-changing realities of ours network connections with no-time and no-where. By preserving the memory, the authority of the object in custody in the museum would be a final stronghold against the changes of contemporary…

Or museums can update themselves and use technology in their behalf.

Utilização de recursos de Humanidades Digitais no Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Foto: MIR, 2014.
Digital humanities @ Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Photo: MIR, 2014.

One of the most important challenges faced museology over the time was the mediation between the exhibition (the exposed objects) and the large variety of their audiences. That is not easy, the balance between providing information and maintaining a clean space where the object could be highlighted. Visitors may want to “just see” in clear and unspoiled space or want to” know everything” about the object, its history, its original contexts or functions, and its meanings. Digital technology can provide the knowledge in an inconspicuous manner, slightly invasive, but also through an individualized and interactive way.

Museums may use the digital technology to confirm and reinforce their long tradition as repositories, not only of objects, but also of the knowledge associated with them. At the museum, digital technology may explain the object, through short descriptions or large studies, and establish relationships between objects in the collection or abroad. Out of the museum, digital technology opens the museum to the people who are far away or for those who can’t move; creates a platform of knowledge and interactions; facilitates lifelong and informal learning; enhance visitor experience and may improve the emotional side of an individual involvement. It allows the approach to the object, its amplification and manipulation. The researcher may do a “distant reading” (Moretti, 2013) and understand art not by studying particular works, but by aggregating and analysing massive amounts of data.

Augé, M. (1992). Non-lieux: introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité. Paris : Le Seuil.
Moretti, F. (2013). Distant reading. London: Verso.

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