Museum as a platform

Much of the literature dealing with digital economy recognize the advent of the so called Web 2.0 as a revolution which has transformed the Web into a platform for sharing contents or information. The revolution lies not just in the development of new technological applications, but has become a veritable philosophy, whereby users no longer behave as simple consumers of information, but wish to make a contribution with their experiences and interpretations.

The passage from authoritarian transmission to a development where knowledge surfaces from negotiation and experience has changed the role of museums. After having presented truths enclosed in displays, they have asked everyone what the meaning of those truths is and started preserving the answer. This change in the ways knowledge is shared and created – or, better, co-created – brings to the surface the multi-layered dimensions that a cultural heritage embeds. Following the constructivist theories, cultural objects are not fixed content to be conveyed to the public, but multi-faceted prisms that change depending on the way they are viewed and on the free associations each viewpoint elicits in each individual.

Adopting the platform model is a great opportunity for museums and may become the point of strength of their development strategy: their sustainability, their own existence, depends upon the relationships they create and the meaning that individuals find in them. Transforming the museum into a platform for sharing, participating and co-creating contents – in the virtual as well as in the physical dimension – requires a preliminary in-depth reflection and the potentiality of the typologies of interactions and relations it carries.

So far, many museums have shown their ability to update their instruments, contents and activities: personalizing online visits, developing educational platforms, creating virtual communities, collecting immaterial knowledge of the city.

Anlyzing, comparing and promoting platform models for museums will be one of the main focuses of this blog.

Stefania Zardini Lacedelli

Virtual Cultural Heritage

Virtual Cultural Heritage represents a rather recent study area unifying the humanistic knowledge and computer science to study, preserve, enhance, and communicate the cultural heritage through digital technology. Despite the common meaning of “virtual”, the potential of VCH extends beyond just online reproduction of contents available on paper and physical objects. Like any other sector in the wider field of digital humanities, it leads to a deep and stimulating revolution in the use of culture.

The meaning in Latin of the term virtual (from Latin, virtus: quality, power) refers to an intrinsic potentiality, a being in potency that is turning into an act. We can therefore interpret a virtual reality as something that formally has not happened yet, but is about to happen, an itinerary where we can perceive its accomplishment.

What is the potential for cultural heritage? Actually with the development of the Internet and in particular of Web 2.0 the concept of “virtual space” has been directed to a highly complex and independent dimension, expanding the space available both in terms of content and relations.

At a content level, digital tools allow us to virtually reconstruct the immaterial context surrounding the cultural heritage. By visually representing the past, we can develop new approaches to study and communicate cultural heritage.

At a relational level, networking technologies have extended the range and occasions for interactions between people and institutions, providing a context of social participation.

Reaching out for the virtual dimension projects cultural institutions into the future. In doing so, Virtual Cultural Heritage offers museums the opportunity to accomplish their original mandate: to contribute to the development and the diffusion of human knowledge.

Stefania Zardini Lacedelli