Digital Humanities and Museums

The inaugural issue of the online Journal of Digital Humanities should be of interest to everyone here. It just came to my attention, and much of the content previously appeared elsewhere on the web, so apologies if this is already old news. I see lots of articles with intriguing titles, including Trevor Owens on “Defining Data for Humanists: Text, Artifact, Information or Evidence?” and Marc Downie and Paul Kaiser on “Spatializing Photographic Archives.” But I am especially interested in the pair of video presentations by Nik Honeysett of the Getty and Michael Edson of the Smithsonian called “Philosophical Leadership Needed for the Future: Digital Humanities Scholars in Museums.” They try to tackle the question of how museums can move beyond the power and limits of “physicality” (i.e., direct confrontation with the real thing).

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About philkatz

I am assistant director for research at the American Association of Museums. One of my jobs there is to track and analyze trends for the Center for the Future of Museums. I'm a historian by training (original area of focus: Civil War and Reconstruction, with a special interest in trans-Atlantic interactions during the era), but have spent most of my career as an administrator and researcher for public humanities and higher ed organizations.

2 thoughts on “Digital Humanities and Museums

  1. Phil,
    Thanks for posting this. I followed your suggestions and through “Philosophical Leadership Needed for the Future…” ended up listening to a crowdsourced panel at the Museum Computer Network’s recent conference. A YouTube video by Micah Vandegrift of Florida State University particularly struck me: he suggested that “Public History” institutions have a particular responsibility to serve as places for collaboration for sharing collections and “opening worlds of knowledge” to the public and to other scholars using digital tools. Further, he spoke of the need for structural change and suggested that museums/libraries create physical spaces to make it easier for teams to work together.
    Seemingly simple, but very smart.

  2. So, do you AGREE with Vandegrift that museums and other public history sites have “a particular responsibility to serve as places for collaboration”? Collaborations with the public can have the side-effect (sometimes desirable, but not always) of encouraging presentism when they rely heavily on the present-day experiences of public collaborators as the point of entry. Is this more or less a danger when digital tools are involved?

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