Hi everyone, I hope you and your families are all staying safe and indoors! For this post, I will be discussing Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory by Jon Ippolito and Richard Rinehart, and Sheila Brennan’s article “Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory.” The section of the Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory I will be focusing on concerns the relationship between new media and social memory, and how the evolution of the former results in implications for how productions of culture are preserved. The article, published in 2012, explores how museums refrain from making their collections public online. While in the past week we have seen a drastic shift from that trend as museums start to make exhibits and other materials accessible online, do you think this will change once things return to normal?
In Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory, Ippolito and Rinehart argue that the growing presence of digital media and its vulnerabilities threaten the existence of different cultural forms within social memory. The explore their argument by using the challenges in preserving new media art as a case study. In the chapter “New Media and Social Memory”, Ippolito and Rinehart first introduce the concept and field of “social memory.” They argue that social memory is “how and what societies remember––the long-term memory of civilizations”(pg. 14). Social memory is also categorized as a multifaceted ideological nature that facilitates the inculcation of traditions, beliefs, and values into the subconscious of an evolving society. Ippolito and Rinehart argue that there are two types of social memory–formal and informal. Formal social memory, interpreted as being institutionalized, entails the preservation and interpretation of objects in their organic and stagnant form by museums, libraries, and archives so they maintain a sense of historical authenticity. Informal social memory serves to distinguish the evolution and functionality of an object i.e. the preservation of late-twentieth-century video games. Ippolito and Rinehart argue that the preservation challenges facing the field right now require melding techniques used in both formal and informal social memory. Ippolito and Rinehart later argue that the digitization of the vehicles of social memory and the tools used to practice it and the weaknesses of new media challenge the foundation of social memory. Some of the suggestions they pose for preserving social memory from extinction are emulation, migration, and reinterpretation.
In her article “Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory,” Sheila Brennan argues that the gatekeeping measures put into place by museums prevent amateur historians and everyday people from interacting with collections not currently on display. Brennan argues that museums can benefit from increasing their digital footprint by using tools, such as an increase in visitation both virtual and physical. In 2004, at the suggestion of Roy Rosenzweig, whose work explores the relationship everyday people have with history, Brennan published a study about the presence of museums on the web. Later in the article, Brennan compares her findings from 2004 with another survey she conducted in 2011. She analyzed 115 sites out of 1179 museums listed in the American Association of Museum’s directory and her findings showed that between 2004 and 2011 the context provided by museums about their collections decreased and that they overwhelmingly lacked online teaching and learning resources. It is interesting to read this article as different institutions start to recognize the popularity of their collections and using them to increase public awareness about historical events.