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DigiCULT
O
VERVIEW
S
etting the context for this Thematic Issue, the
position paper by Susan Hazan, Curator of New
Media at the Israel Museum, concentrates on how
heritage institutions could (and already do) extend
their horizons through synergies with online com-
munity activities. She explores a number of online
`interpretive communities', the technologies and
strategies they employ and considers their potential
for the heritage sector.
Three interviews provide different perspectives
on virtual communities:
Kristóf Nyíri, director of the Institute for Philo-
sophical Research of the Hungarian Academy of
Sciences, points out that professional virtual
communities, people who collaborate to achieve
something of cultural or scientific importance, need
to be anchored in real life. On the other hand, he
sees online communities as highly instrumental
in pooling people's experiences and working on
solutions for problems that are increasingly on a
global scale.
Paul Mulholland, research fellow in the Knowledge
Media Institute of the British Open University, draws
on experiences from the CIPHER project.
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This
project develops cultural heritage forums, associated
with regions, and empowers communities to create,
own and sustain online cultural content for them-
selves. Mulholland emphasises that via such forums
not only do many people get involved in cultural
heritage, but through activities such as oral history
interviews they can add previously hidden
information and new insights.
Isabelle Vinson, editor-in-chief of Museum
International, published by UNESCO, stresses that
virtual communities can play a role in safeguarding
the intangible or living cultural heritage. She points
out that, in a world of increased globalisation,
migration streams and cultural transition, they will
become forums of people who cherish, preserve and
stimulate traditional narratives, arts and traditions.
Michael Steemson summarises the Edinburgh
Forum's discussion, which was probably the most
argumentative so far, not least because of the topic's
psychological and anthropological aspects.The Forum
also set out to explore many dimensions of virtual
communities such as professional/non-professional,
open/closed, cognitive/emotive and synchronous/
asynchronous, to name but a few.
This Issue contains two case studies, one of which
concentrates on a professional community, while
the other describes the involvement of migrant
communities in creating a rich resource on the
history of migration to England:
Angela Spinazzé, ATSPIN consulting, describes
the fabric of the virtual community, involving art
historians and IT experts, that developed the virtual
Este Court Archive.Their work represents a new
way of collecting, sharing and presenting scholarly
information (in five languages) on a massive but
dispersed collection of Renaissance works of art.
The case study on Moving Here, written together
with Helen Wood from The National Archives,
describes a large-scale digitisation project involving
thirty partners, which combines records on, and
personal stories from members of four migrant
communities who settled in England. In particular,
the project highlights the importance of working
together with community centres and experts.
Finally, Cary Karp, Director of Internet Strategy
and Technology at the Swedish Museum of Natu-
ral History, Director of Internet Strategy for the
International Council of Museums (ICOM), and
President and CEO of the Museum Domain
Management Association (MuseDoma), addresses
the policy of museum communities on the Web.
In particular, he draws our attention to museum
activities that concentrate on born-digital creative
works and are not operated by bricks-and-mortar
heritage institutions. He calls on the established
heritage agencies to face the challenge of such born-
digital initiatives that set up virtual museums and
provide access to valuable resources solely on the
Internet.This should lead to a productive co-
operation or at least coexistence with born-digital
initiatives (which would eventually come together
under the subdomain virtual.museum).
We thank The National Archives for their
kind permission to use selected images from the
Moving Here project to illustrate this Thematic
Issue. Special thanks are also extended to Crystal
Hendrix-Hirschorn who provided valuable help
in the selection and timely delivery of the images.
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