Some very helpful discussion questions from Tom and James….
Ideas, not Collections
● What factors led to the movement from museums built around collections of objects to museums constructed around ideas and events?
● Conn suggests that history museums possess a civic role in our society, both in the creation of knowledge and as public spaces. To what extent do museums as physical and digital spaces respond to the need for what Elaine Heumann Gurian “a place of safety” and a marketplace for the exchange of ideas?
● How might digital exhibits complicate notions of ownership or objects and collections?
● How can technology, interactivity, and an expanded digital presence enhance/create/refresh an object-driven epistemology?
● Conn writes that museums are increasingly called upon to stand in for real political debate and to be economic engines in depressed industrial centers.
○ Does an increased digital presence run counter to these intentions or can it create a new epistemology for museums to be thematic and collection oriented?
○ Can we escape the limitations of physical space and engage audiences with more objects? What drawbacks might this entail?
● Museums have collected more and yet incorporate fewer objects into exhibits. Why the disconnect? What is the mission of a museum?
● Considering our own site visits, are they representative of the epistemological trends Conn describes?
● Is there a financial cost/benefit in embracing “radical trust” and “letting go?”
● Sheila Brennan: “I think the time has passed when online exhibitions like the Raid on Deerfield will be created by history museums. This kind of layered content works well on the web, and also serves the purpose of unveiling the processes of historians.” What does she mean by this?
● DIGITAL public history or History, public and digital?
● The iPads on the natural history museum allowed to view the responses of other visitors. Is it more important to facilitate a dialogue between patrons, or between patron and curator? What would be the different impacts?
● In this day of “ever-changing technology,” in what ways can an exhibit space (physical or digital) use digital devices to immerse to visitor?
● Do the recommendations in Imperiled Promise pertain only to the NPS, or do they address broader issues for public history?
Digital Versus Physical
● Does digital public history need objects?
● Do mobile apps reduce or increase interest in physical attendance of museums?
○ What are some examples where you would like more mobile apps within the physical space?
● When does it make sense for a museum to join an established digital “narrative” and when is it better for a museum to make its own site/digital presence and establish its own narrative?
● The review guidelines emphasize that websites “are often a work in progress, and this needs to be considered when judging their impact.” The guidelines were first written in 2001. Does this sentiment still exist today? In the case of Social Media or communications-based sites (like blogs and message boards), does the “ever-growing-and-discussing” mechanic add or detract from the credibility and impact?
Casual History versus Expanding Research
● In the eyes of the writers, there seems to be a distinction between digitizing research material and the use of digital power to promote interaction. How real is the difference between these two?
● Considering the readings collectively, how have (and how can) history museums engage visitors interactively—in person and through digital interfaces—while strengthening historical skills and building appreciation for the complexity and contingency of history?