Adaptive Institutional Change: Managing Digital Works at the Museum of Modern Art

Vivian van Saaze, Glenn Wharton, Leah Reisman


From digital video to software-driven installations, digital art is now present in museums around the world. Museum systems designed for object-based collections like paintings and sculpture do not address the collections management and conservation requirements for these new technologies and their associated hardware. In this article the authors investigate processes through which digital art becomes embedded in museums. Based on original research conducted at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, we argue that the introduction of digital art to MoMA did not lead, as recent literature suggests, to disruptive or radical changes of existing institutional practices. Instead, the result has been organizational subunit proliferation and adjustments to established practices and procedures. Through our study of managing digital art at MoMA, we engage Science and Technology Studies and the institutional analysis tradition in the sociology of organizations to advance the understanding of processes of change in art museums. 


collection management; digital art; institutional change

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Copyright (c) 2018 Vivian van Saaze, Glenn Wharton, Leah Reisman

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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