The Collections Trust has welcomed the findings of the Museums Association’s “Public Attitudes to Museums” research, which show that the public regard collections, conservation, and collections-related knowledge as the essential core purpose of museums.
Speaking at an event at the Society of Antiquaries last night to mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, leading academic Professor Peter Stone of Newcastle University called on the UK Government to sign up to a law created in 1954 to protect heritage sites and artefacts in war zones around the world.
The 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict is a key piece of international humanitarian law which requires Governments and the military to protect sites of cultural significance during fighting. The UK Government signed the documentation in 1954, but has so far not introduced the legislation which would make it legally binding.
Speaking at the event, which was attended by the former Ambassador to Iraq as well as representatives of the culture sector and the armed forces, Professor Stone Commented, “As I stand before you in March 2013, approaching the 10th anniversary of the invasion in Iraq, the UK has still not ratified [the 1954 Hague Convention]. This leaves the UK isolated internationally and at a significant disadvantage in our aspiration to be a global leader with regard to international humanitarian law. This position undermines our claim to be at the forefront of working for global security and peace.”
On Saturday 23rd March, Newcastle University and UK charity the Collections Trust will hold a Cultural Property Protection Day School in London to highlight recent examples of looting and damage to cultural heritage and to make the case for ratification. The day school is open to the public, who can book online at http://www.collectionslink.org.uk/events/cultural-property-day-school. There is also a petition encouraging the Government to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/47341.
I was honoured to be invited to join a panel at today's UK Archives Discovery Forum 2013 at the National Archives in Kew to address the question of 'What's in it for archives and their users?' The 'it' being the various methods of opening data up for discovery, use and enjoyment via platforms such as Europeana, the Culture Grid (www.culturegrid.org.uk) and the Google Cultural Institute Platform. I thought it might be useful to post my comments here for your feedback, so here goes!
I would argue that after 10 years of activity around sharing collections and archival collections online, we've learnt that there are 3 distinct groups of benefits:
Benefits to the archive and museum profession
Benefits to audiences
I would argue that the most fundamental aspect of professional benefit focuses on the fact that it is our job - the impulse to gather, refine, organise and share knowledge is encoded into our professional DNA. Much of this discussion is a logical extension of what we do already into a new era of tools and use cases.
i always make the case that as a professional community, we share most in common with the Commons community. sharing our data is a form of digital solidarity, and one of the most common use cases we find is professionals finding each other, researching their own collections and building knowledge capital between our organisations.
Not only this, but if provides us with an internal advocacy tool - having been involved in the world of cataloging for the past decade, I know that our biggest problem is not technical or structural but personal. By opening our collections up, we put a value proposition in front of our work, which helps us to express its value.
The best thing is that opening up our data demonstrates the reason why we do our job - well structured knowledge and information flows better in a linked data world, and is more futureproof, and it enables us to be more agile in saying 'yes' to participating in things like the GCI Platform which might help us reach out to users.
For the public, opening up collections online is about much more than opening up collections online - discoverability is only the beginning of the question. The real challenge is relevance . Our data is the token which buys us into the game in this brave new world. The quality of it is what gives us our unique value, but the real purpose of it is to give people the raw materials through which to explore their sense of agency, to discovery their own literacy rand to help the, create new forms of capital.
And in this world, digital integrity is a coinage with a real and very direct value. The need for trust in our institutions, the ability to verify and judgau digital authenticity is a real currency. If we enclose it, if we refuse to share it, we are hoarding the most important value we have in a Digital and Creative Economy.
And finally, the political value of this whole domain of discourse is immense. We hear every day of the impact of cuts in public expenditure on culture. I'm not going to comment on that but I will say that both in the UK and Europe, we deseparately need a new product which is fit for this political environment, and in the years to come.
Linked open data, sharing metadata openly so that it can be repurposed infinitely - whether it is Europeana, or the Culture Grid or Google - is that new product, and has the potential to change the political discourse about our work.
More than this, though, this is aout some very fundamental principles. Opening up the public record for discovery and re-use is a fundamental feafore of democracy and transparency. It is how we hold public institutions and corporations to account. So we have a moral imperative to use the tools and knowledge at our disposal - whether they are a destination or a channel - to fulfil our public remit.
It was Bill Thompson who said it. We had just finished lunch at the Fitzwilliam Museum, when Bill set his cup of tea down in its saucer and said 'Wouldn't it be great if we could give a 3D printed copy of a museum object to every child in the country'.
Somebody made a wisecrack about sounding like a fantastic opportunity for disposal, and the conversation carried on to other things.
But the idea stayed with me. And the more I think about it, the more I think 'why not?'. It's like an itch I can't seem to scratch, so I am sharing it here in the hope that someone will either tell me why it won't work, or we'll start a movement!
The Museums Association is working with the Creative & Cultural Skills Sector Skills Council to review the Cultural Heritage Blueprint - a vision of how the future skills needs of the UK museum sector can be met.
The Collections Trust has welcomed the review of the Cultural Heritage Blueprint, calling it 'an opportunity to take a fresh perspective on what the museums of the future will need from their workforce', but has also called on the MA and CC Skills to recognise the very significant changes that have taken place in the sector since the blueprint was originally developed.
An article detailing why museums, the heritage sector and society as a whole need curators.
|Author:||Dr Tim Ewin and Ms Jo Ewin|
The existing definitions of a ‘curator’ are inadequate in a modern heritage context. The lack of an accurate definition, I believe, has contributed to a loss of appreciation for the unique and important roles curators and curatorial knowledge contributes to both the heritage sector and society as a whole. This has led to the current trend of replacing curators with more specific job roles (like collections managers and digitisers) that do not adequately retain curatorial knowledge. On this basis, the following definition of ‘curator’ is proposed: ‘An employee of a heritage organisation (e.g. museum or art gallery) who’s role it is to understand the heritage (be that cultural, historic or scientific) and objects pertaining to the heritage of their community and make this information available to anyone who may wish to access it, facilitate dialogue surrounding it and develop collections relating to it.’ Readers are encouraged to criticise this definition and give their perspective. It is hoped that this redefining will stimulate debate as to what the heritage sector delivers to society and that safeguarding provision for curatorial knowledge should be incorporated into the Accreditation scheme.
|Author:||Dr Tim Ewin|
How should museums adapt to the wealth of information and imagery now online? Yasmin Khan reports on a recent debate in an article brought to you by Collections Trust as part of its content-sharing agreement with the Guardian Culture Professionals Network.
If our museums were a Dickensian character, who would they be: Miss Havisham stuck in an old wedding dress in a room gathering cobwebs; or Fagin the entrepreneur, sending urchins out to spread his influence across the city?The second option was favoured by speaker Ross Parry at a recent Question Time style debate at the Science Museum in London –Museums in the information age: evolution or extinction? Organised by the University of Leicester, it featurted a panel of thought leaders from the sector considering how effectively museums are responding to technological developments or whether they are lagging behind.
Arts Council England has awarded funding for a new initiative to support regional museums in England who want to forge participatory relationships with the public.
The winning partnership between The Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past at the University of York (IPUP), The Diversity in Heritage Group (DHG), The Collections Trust, and The British Museum will deliver the “Supporting Practice in Participation” project.
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