Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Web 2.0 and the museum sector

The American Institute for Conservation has just held its annual conference in Los Angeles, around which there has been some interesting side discussions on the use of email and the web for providing information to AIC members. As one of the organisers has said "While some people are very comfortable these days with all their information being digital, there are others who still use dial-up connections (due to geographical limitations), are Luddites (not meant in a derogatory way) or just prefer paper and appreciate its longevity (understandable given our constituency)."

This has prompted some great correspondence, turning up some really useful information around the fundamental change that web 2.0 technologies is bringing about in the way information is shared, and how we communicate. Try:

"The American Press on Suicide Watch," by Frank Rich in the NYT

"The Death of Scholarly Publishing," by Larry Cebula in the Northwest History Blog.

"Why Blog? Does Blogging Matter?," Charles Ellwood in Ancient World Bloggers

"The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society is Coming Online," by Kevin Kelly in Wired Mag

Is blogging really making a difference, I ask myself, or am I just being self indulgent in writing about issues which interest me? My view is that I have spent my working life collecting and sifting information in all sorts of ways, a process which constantly stimulates me. Blogging seems to me to bring about a form of communication with which there is no other direct comparison. In particular it allows for the passing on of information as per the articles above in a way which no other medium offers. used to quite admire people who made a virtue out of not using email (or mobile phones), and their (possibly) calmer lives. Now I know they are missing out on too much. Roll on Web 2.0, I say.


  1. Interesting post Julian. And yes, I agree with you that blogging does seem like self indulgence sometimes. But, I consider it like the 21st Century's published diary. Imagine if the diarists and letter-writers of past centuries hadn't put down their thoughts - often with the intention of publishing as a collected volume later on. This is the function that blogs fill today in my view.

    Regarding museums and web 2.0 could I draw your attention to a conference that Wikimedia Australia is hosting soon specifically about how the "G.L.A.M. sector" can better collaborate with Wikipedia. http://glam.wikimedia.org.au/ I'd love to hear your reactions.

    Also, there was a conference last with a roundtable discussion on how to open up access to Australia's cultural archives. I've blogged about it from my perspective in Wikimedia - arguing that each institution's different approach is akin to everyone being on a different rail gauge. I believe this ties in quite closely to what you've been discussing here:

    -Liam Wyatt
    VP Wikimedia Australia

  2. Hi Liam, Thanks for this - I'll check out the links and get back to you. Meanwhile I would be interested in your thoughts on the excerpt from a blog I follow at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in relation to my own posting today, in particular re the Wikis:

    Thanks, Julian

    The imminent demise of CoOL and the ConsDistList marks the biggest shift in information sharing for conservators since the profession started printing journals.

    I don’t think for a minute that AIC and IIC and conservators in general are willing to let this resource and the contained documents fade away.

    But I would like to raise some questions around the best ways for this information and data to be shared and stored. I would like to suggest that AIC and IIC work to make themselves platforms for the creation and sharing of this information rather than just static distribution sources. Instead of relying on one person to manage the information (Walter, how did you do it?), I suggest that they rely on **everyone** to manage, create, and update the information.

    For the past few years my friend Daniel Cull and I have been involved in creating and editing the Wikipedia article for Art Conservation-Restoration. While clearly, this article currently contains a fraction of the information that is in CoOL, Wikipedia’s potential is limited only be our efforts and imagination. It should contain the sum of conservation knowledge.

    Could Wikipedia become a replacement for CoOL? Maybe, just maybe.

    But that’s just part of the problem. What about the ConsDistList, and all of the other e-mail dist lists associated within CoOL? I can only throw out suggestions or ideas. But maybe we could build discussion networks within current social media applications such as Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc? What role could a blog or multiple blogs play in sharing this information? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to use these new and existing technologies?

    I don’t really have the answers to these questions, but I think this is an opportunity for conservators to open their collaborative networks and try and use social media applications to handle our information sharing. This is an opportunity for conservators and associated museum professionals to discuss the best ways to share and distribute electronic information.