Effects of digital technology in the museum

This week I read a very well-written article on the website of Art in America. The article, written by Brian Droitcour and William S. Smith, discusses the ways in which digital technology has infiltrated not only the visitor experience of museums, but also the way in which the museum operates. The article also introduced potential problems that digital technology can bring to a museum and how it has impacted the role of the museum itself. After discussing these topics throughout the past eight weeks in class, I found that the article did a great job of addressing the ways that digital technology has impacted the various aspects of a museum.

Digital technology has influenced museums far beyond what the visitor can see. Behind the fancy new in gallery technology, the social media accounts, the website, and the encouragement for visitors to take selfies, digital technology has become an integral part of the way museums function. Digital technology has helped to create new positions within the staff that oversee all things digital. It has also given museums access to more precise analytics and immediate feedback, which in some cases helps museums to raise money for new technological aspects. If a certain technology has been successful based on the data provided, they are more likely to receive funds to continue and expand on the technology.

The article covers these aspects of digital technology in the museum and more before going on to explain the potential problems associated with the technology. A huge issue that the article mentions is one that we’ve discussed before in class and I’ve thought about a lot. Technology is ever changing and improving. In order to keep up with these changes, the museum has to maintain and upgrade its technologies regularly. However, this is expensive in terms of resources and time. Often, the museum has a much easier time fundraising for new technological projects than for the upkeep of current ones. So how does the museum balance the expense of upkeep versus the expense of new technologies? In a society deeply ingrained with digital technology, how does a museum keep up?

Another issue that the article does a good job of covering is that of digitally changing artworks. As virtual reality recreations of pieces become more common, often intended to give the public a better look at the pieces, we question the distinction between a better view of the piece and changing it completely. Where do you draw the line? Is changing the artwork completely an issue or does it add to the experience to see both the original and the virtual reality piece?

I think this article is a great summation of some of the major uses and considerations that go into using digital technology in museums. It ends by discussing museums as not only data holders, but data creators through innovative features on websites and apps. I really like the line “the museum’s role as custodian of objects is doubled by a new role as custodian of data.” It nicely compares the museum’s physical collection of objects with its new collection of data. Digital technology has become an integral aspect of museums, not only in the interactives and the technologies that the public sees, but also in the actual running of the museum itself.

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