This is partly an experiment in live-blogging a conversation that's mostly happening on twitter – in trying to bridge the divide between conversation that anyone can jump into, and a sometimes intimidating comment box on an individual blog; and partly a chance to be brave about doing my thinking in public and posing a question before I've worked out my own answer…
I've been thinking about the question 'if physical museums were never invented, how would we have invented digital museums?' for a while (I was going to talk about this at GLAM-WIKI but decided not to subject people to a rambling thought piece exploring the question). By this I don't mean a museum without objects, rather 'what if museums weren't conceived as central venues?'. Today, in the spirit of avoiding a tricky bit of PHP I have to deal with on my day off, I tweeted: "Museums on the web, social media, apps – stories in your everyday life; visiting physical museum – special treat, experience space, objects?". By understanding how the physical museum has shaped our thinking, can we come up with models that make the most of the strengths, and minimise the weaknesses, of digital and physical museums? How and where can people experience museum collections, objects, stories, knowledge? How would the phenomenology of a digital museum, a digital object, be experienced?
And what is a 'museum' anyway, if it's not represented by a building? In another twitter conversation, I realised my definition is something like: museums are for collections of things and the knowledge around them.
Then a bit of explanation: "Previous tweet is part of me thinking re role of digital in museums; how to reconcile internal focus on physical with reach of digital etc" (the second part has a lot to do with a new gallery opening today at work, and casting my mind back to the opening of Who Am I? and Antenna in June).
Denver Art Museum's Koven J. Smith has been discussing similar questions: 'What things do museums do *exclusively* because of tradition? If you were building a museum from scratch, what would you do differently?'. My response was "a museum invented now would be conversational and authoritative – here's this thing, and here's why it's cool".
Other questions: Did the existence of the earlier model muddy our thinking? How can we make online, mobile or app visitors as visible (and as important) as physical visitors? (I never want to see another email talking about 'real [i.e. physical] and online' visitors).
So, what do you think? And if you've come here from twitter, I'd be so thrilled if you bridged the divided and commented! I'll also update with quotes from tweets but that'll probably be slower than commenting directly.
Anyway, I can see lots of comments coming in from twitter so I'm going to hit 'publish post' now…