Collecting in the Digital Age: Contemporary Heritage in the Museum
This paper will explore the challenges in curating born-digital objects as part of rapid-response, social, scientific, history, and art and design museum collections. Personal memories, social movements, and cultural phenomena are now created and circulated online. Knowledge about contemporary society and events is also disseminated online, and informed by the algorithms behind web platforms and social networks. Therefore, the virtual circulation of ideas represents a crucial part of contemporary society, which different memory institutions are just starting to collect and preserve.
However, museums are not yet ready to include born-digital content in their curatorial practices. This paper will focus on social media collections and explore existing attempts to include them in museums, while analysing the difficulties museums still encounter. It will examine problems in the acquisition of social media content, in the legal and ethical limitations in collecting such material, in its inclusion in collection management systems and documentation within collection standards.
The paper will draw on selected examples of social media content included in art, design, history, and science collections, and it will draw parallels with existing practices in libraries and archives, with a focus on debates in the web archiving community. This presentation will thus discuss how social media content can be integrated in museum collections, how these digital objects affect museum processes, and the still difficult coexistence of virtual and ‘analogue’ objects in exhibitions.