Objects, subjects, bits and bytes: learning from the digital collections of the National Museums

Siân Bayne, Jen Ross, Zoe Williamson

Abstract


This paper is concerned with online museum education, exploring the themes of user-centredness, digitization, authority and control. Taking as its starting point the shift of focus in museum policy from the collection to the user-learner, it suggests that this movement from object to subject – this ‘de-centring’ of the cultural institution – is further complicated by a fundamental change in the nature of the object, as a result of digitization programmes which transform material, ‘possessible’ artefacts into volatile amalgams of bits and bytes. The ability of users to take, manipulate, re-distribute and re-describe digital objects is, we suggest, a primary source of their educational value. It is also, however, a source of difficulty for institutions as they come to terms with the changing patterns of ownership, participation and knowledge production we are experiencing as we move further into the digital age.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Siân Bayne, Jen Ross, Zoe Williamson

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360