From catalogues to contextual networks: reconfiguring collection documentation in museums

Michael Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The idea that knowledge relies on interconnection is not new. However, despite the impact of technology, splits remain within and between museum collections. A range of factors have contributed to this, including legacy practice, the early tenets of the ‘museum archives movement,’ the professionalization of archivists and the continued focus on object management and item-level description in museum collection management systems. Though recent sector-wide movements, such as convergence and linked data, have done little to alleviate this issue within individual institutions, disciplines with strong links to cultural heritage (including archaeology, anthropology, folklore and history) have become increasingly interested in text, context, networks, relationality and entanglement. This article explores these conflicting trends of (administrative) separation and (theoretical) interconnection, and argues that archivists and museum professionals need to work together to develop collection documentation that better reflects contemporary practice. Such documentation should be based on aggregates as well as individual items, support organizational knowledge management, include the potential for ‘thick’ relationship descriptions, and be more effectively historicized and linked to evidence. Doing so will raise interesting challenges for the sector; but change will also produce important benefits, contributing to the significance of the objects preserved and helping to support future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-20
Number of pages17
JournalArchives and Records
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

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