Why Giving It Away is the Future
In the Virtues of Promiscuity by Ed Rodley, he discusses the various benefits that come from open sourcing information in the art world. The general mode of operation is to keep your method secret. Stash it like cash under the mattress and don’t let anybody see it, but what if that theory is limiting us? What if it limits the possibility for creativity? What if by opening the science behind our ideas we allow for more creative potential on a more global scale?
“Promiscuity connects museums to maker communities.” (Rodley, 2014) If you chose to use your knowledge to inspire the public, and the communities that fuel your establishment, only good can come of that.
There is an obvious fear that by establishing a digital source for people to experience a space or work of art then it diminishes the desire to actually visit that space or museum. Rodley argues that exactly the opposite is true, and I completely agree. “The value of museums doesn’t change from being about physical things to being about digital things. It expands from the physical to include spreading digital information about those assets.” (Rodley, 2014) I have visited museums countless times because of a piece that I was able to explore through their digital collection.
Digital sparks initial interest, leaving room for more follow through. If you have the time, money, and human power to do it, why not make your collection more available to the public in some capacity?
Paul F. Marty argues that the opposite is true.
“Cultural heritage organizations have opened up their collections to the world in a way that is not only without historical parallel, but is also, for the most part, offered in a way that users perceive to be free. Yet as information professionals strive to keep up with their users’ constantly changing needs and expectations, they face challenges that threaten not only libraries, archives and museums, but all who are interested in promoting the digital humanities.” (Marty, 2012)
While I understand the need to protect our collections, and make clear to the public that the information that they are receiving has not been put there without extensive effort, time, and money, I find it hard to believe that by making information more available we are threatening our very existence. If anything, the dissemination of information to the public draws more attention to our mission and collections and builds interest; translating to attendance.
A prime example of that being the NYPL Digital Collections, these collections provide a free and open sourced view of countless items in the library’s collection. It also provides a platform for copyright protected materials to be viewed while within the museum walls. This draws attention to the library’s holdings, while also encouraging attendance by providing opportunities for more in depth research. If that didn’t exist, this couldn’t exist.
Class Visit to the Met
Visiting the Met and getting to meet with Neal Stimler was definitely eye opening and affirming.
On a class discussion related note, we were shown the Met Museum digital collection archive, and were given plenty of space to explore and learn about the layout of the museum and how that is directly translated onto their website through the use of gallery tagging and their free audio guide. The audio guide that is available through the website on your phone is the same audio guide that is available to be paid for at the museum. (I wish that when they chose to make the audio guide free for smart phone users, that they also made the audio guides free in the museum as I it is definitely people of a certain income that are able to purchase smart phones, but that’s an aside.)
This is a great example of how making information accessible, for free, gives people a chance to interact with the museum in a new way and ignites interest in attendance. It also allows for research to occur without having to have the means to travel to New York City.
Neal’s personal journey to his current position at the museum has definitely been a long and inspiring one. After hearing his story, my own goals within museums, libraries, and archives seemed very attainable, as long as I continue to remember to be adaptable, accept criticism, understand where technology is heading and not push against it and be open to change.
Additional Readings: Rijksmuseum
One of our optional readings, Why the Rijksmuseum Is Removing Bigoted Terms from Its Artworks’ Titles by Carey Dunne, was incredibly interesting, and I wish that we had had time to discuss it in class.
While I am opposed to censorship or the modification of works in their original state solely to make them more palatable, I completely understand the perspective of the Rijksmuseum in updating the titles and descriptions for their art works. This not only has to do with relevancy in research based environments, but also in maintaining a just and neutral space for the public.
Archivists must strive to maintain accuracy in the terms, descriptions, and names they give to pieces. I doubt if anyone looking for an image of a Chinese piece of art is going to search for the term “oriental”; so why is it in there?
I see no issue in renaming the piece if the name was originally given by a cataloger or curator, but I do not think the pieces should be altered if the name was given by the artist. In either case I think it is so important to note the history that comes with those names that were given to those pieces. Here is where I’ll talk about soft power again (forever and ever), if we chose to change the name shouldn’t there be open recognition about where the original name came from and why it was so crudely used? Let’s give the people a chance to learn from our past in order to change the future instead of burying the past and refusing to acknowledge the systemic racism, ageism, sexism, etc. that we are faced with on a daily basis.