LECTURER: DR CHIKUMBIRIKE
TOPIC: MUSEOLOGY: CONSERVATION AND CURATION TECHNIQUES COURSE
DISCUSS HOW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY HAS TRANSFORMED MUSEUMS
What is digital technology?
Digital technologies are a large range of systems and devices characterised by, but they are not limited to the computer. These include applications of databases and search engines which makes tasks easier to be complicated online. The examples of digital sources include audio-recording, photographs, films, animation, surveillance cameras and the use of computers. The digital technologies can be in many forms such as when visitors use their smartphones or tablets to enhance their learning and experience and to take record of the collections such that they are available online through certain websites where they can easily visit the online channels to access the information (Squarzola 2017).
The history of digital technology in museums
In the past the museums were known to be places where you could access their collections physically with the aim to preserve, conserve and provide access to the audiences in order to be able to access their collections and objects (Squarzola 2017:85).The history of digital technologies is the time where the technologies were integrated in museums and this was a time where the museum specialists and registrars started to engage with the new technologies in their collections so that they provide good services to the larger audience (Jones 2012 cited in Vance 1986).
However, this transformation in museums over the past years was influenced by the rise of internet in the late 90s.the internet has greatly impacted in increasing the scope of museums where smartphones could be applied to monitor the televisions and technology has taken over the museums. (Squarzola 2017). In 1963 at the Smithsonian’s national museum of natural history and at the institute for computer research in the humanities there were some developments which resulted to the introduction of data processing systems in museums and this was a great time where data became organised electronically (Jones 2012 cited in Vance 1986)
Technology is associated with progress and development and this has played a major role in museums. Many tourists apply the digital online system and majority of the universal museums have also created online tours. The changes occurred in databases to accommodate the storage of digital images with the text record describing a text that is moved from museum collections to a more digital form such as videos and audio recording. As this change occurred in museums there was also a need to educate museum specialists and curators on how to operate the digital technologies in museums and understand them for example at the Getty information institute, the museum computer network and archives and museum informatics (Jones 2012). Technology has made life easier for both museums and its visitors through:
Multi media: the museums have moved to creating multimedia products that are based on visual and textual content, this includes the use of digital images. The early efforts were carried out by the National museum of American Arts where visitors could navigate through kiosk screens through the museum maps.
The positive impacts of digital technologies in museums
Digital technologies make it easier to navigate the collections without having to physically go to the museum but rather they can be accessible anytime wherever you want them by just going online and search for what you are looking for. The cost efficiency has also dropped in terms of having to travel long distances and it is now easier to manage and conserve the information. Surveillance at the museums has also increased where cameras are used for security reasons to protect from theft or burglaries of objects. Technologies have created innovations of communicating with the audiences such as through screening (Squarzola 2017).
With the use of digital technologies information is easily obtained through high quality forms of browsing and they have enabled museums to develop businesses and have also increased the audiences and sell their products in different ways. Objects can be easily shared online to a larger number of audiences. Digitisation brings about new levels of standardisation. Economy is well improved through these technology forms and it attracts foreign currency through tourism (Squarzola 2017).
Negative impacts of digital technologies in museums
Technology has led to an increasing democratisation of museum processes this is when the objects are place online and the resources can benefit from this easier way of sharing information due to low costs involved and this makes it very difficult to protect them.
The transformations in museums
The transformations were that of moving museum information from paper to electronic formats, in recent years they had collected information in a formulated matter. Museums were able to take advantage of market trends towards lower cost computing. This was based on scanning technologies that reduced the amount of heat and light that is generated per scan making. The virtual museums which is a digital creation organised on a permanent and temporary basis in the service of society and its development, open to the public which acquires, conserves, researches, communicate and exhibits in a digital way (Icom).
This museum takes the fourth position in the world-famous museums which receives over 6 million. British museum has programmes that use online technologies to make sure that the audiences continue to be engaged in exhibitions, these programmes attracts and invites visitors to engage in learning experience. They use their smartphones and other online sources (Squarzola 2017).
National museum of natural history
It has many virtual tours that are combined directly on the website in Washington, here the use of technology is to the extent that it provides images on screens and uses arrows to direct. This enhances the learning experience of visitors.
Museums are changing to institutions involved in lifelong learning using information technology to reach out to the public and this will be able to open their digitised collections and provide with educational programmes that will bring about cultural information for future generations.
Jones, K.B.2012.The transformation of the digital museum. In: Marty, P.F(ed) Museum informatics: People, information and technology in museums. New York: Harvard Divinity School.
Squarzola, G.2017.The digital transformation in the world of museum: an improvement or a loss for the customer and the heritage. Venice: Ca’Forscari university of Venice.