Historian, Curator of Technology at The Henry Ford
Thursday, March 18th, 2010 | suzanne
As a museum collections person, I’m very interested in providing broad access to collections artifacts, metadata and contextual information. As a public historian of technology, what I do is facilitate and empower people to make meaning out of the stuff of the past.
With the majority of museum collections in storage (as is true for pretty much every collecting institution), the web provides an expanded exhibit space with a radically expanded participant-audience. But digitization, and the analysis of digital material culture and its metadata, is more complicated than taking a picture. Art museums have done great work on digitizing their collections and making their data available for manipulation (cf the Brooklyn Museum’s collections API), but history museums are looking through a glass darkly. Especially for large institutions with large, diverse collections (in terms of size, level of cataloguing, access in storage, etc), the challenges of workflow and process complicate the end-user questions about metadata and interface.
Basically I’m interested in discussing the challenges and possibilities for big material culture digitization projects, like the one we’re planning right now at my museum.