Do museums imprison objects or set them free?
Intern. Comitee for Collecting: (..)Contemporary information technology has created opportunities for museums to develop joint information and discussion platforms on collections and to increase access to collections. Both museum professionals and the general public contribute to a shared understanding of collections by participating in these structures.
But shared collections and sharing collections goes beyond digital curating platforms. At the heart of the discussion are issues of ownership, authority, selection and control.
Talking about #shared collections and #sharing collections raises a number of questions:
• Who owns collections? Accessioning an object in
a museum collection, means removing the object from its original context and ownership. Does this mean that the original owner’s role is reduced to that of source of information and providing context and meaning? How do we include objects
in museum exhibitions and programmes that community (or individuals in the community) wants to keep ownership of? Is it possible to recognise an object as an important source of information and appreciation for the broader society and conserve it as such without removing it from its original owner’s possession?
• Who is your community? How do we de ne our communities? What is a museum community? What happens if the current communities are so different from the population at the time of collection, that the objects do not have any local relevance anymore? Who is the collections community – the #audience community or the #source community?
• How do we involve our communities? What are our expectations from our communities – to add
knowledge, donate objects or make objects in their possession available for the use in the museums? Do these expectations mirror that of the communities and how do we find out whether this is the case?
• Ownership of objects: Is placing objects under institutional (and bureaucratic) control the only way in which museums can conserve objects and communicate meaning through these objects?
• User-generated collections: How can we create shared collections, that consist of user-generated #digital content? Is it possible to collect those digital objects within museum structures and logics? How can the process of curating #be #collective #discussed online?
Looking at the above questions, sharing collections and shared collections goes beyond digitisation and joint curating programmes, whether with other institutions or with community groups. e core questions deal with relationships with communities, #why we collect and #how we collect. Digital platforms are tools to engage in these questions and not necessarily the best tool in all societies.