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October 7, 2014 2:55 PM

Special Issue of Museum Management and Curatorship:
Digital Heritage

published as Volume 23, Issue 4, 2008.

Introduction to this Special Issue

The papers in this issue of Museum Management and Curatorship were presented, along with twenty others, at ICHIM07 in Toronto (see http://www.archimuse.com/ichim07/).

ICHIM was an exceptionally productive conference series[1]. First held in 1991 as the International Conference on Hypermedia and Interactivity in Museums, ICHIM became the International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meetings by 1997, and was simply known as ICHIM after 2001. It was organized by Archives & Museum Informatics – usually biennially – in venues alternating between North America and Europe.

In 1991, museums already had several years of experience making educational videodiscs. Hypermedia, the new construct for non-linear storytelling, was enabling museums to move beyond the digital encyclopedia genre of early videodiscs to more complex interactives and games based on traversing logic trees. Yet there was no forum where those experimenting with these ideas could meet. When Archives & Museum Informatics announced ICHIM91 in Pittsburgh, we had no idea how many, or what sorts of people, might respond to a call for a meeting on hypermedia and interactivity in museums. In the event, more than 200 people turned out, few of whom had ever met; most were unaware of each others’ work.

Perhaps because ICHIM took place only every other year (and for its first decade perambulated across the Atlantic), it did not develop fixed structures. There was, though, a small devoted core of participants who were deeply engaged. This gave ICHIM the freedom to take on a somewhat new identity with each instantiation. With technologies evolving quickly, from videodisk in 1991, to CD in 1993, to the Web in 1995, wireless in 1997, location-aware by 1999, and social media in 2001-5, the novelty of ICHIM topics continued to draw people with a refreshing the mix of skills, backgrounds and purposes.

From 1993-1995, ICHIM was focused on multimedia recorded on physical media; there were only a few experiments on-line. Most attendees still didn’t have e-mail addresses and ICHIM had no Web presence! From 1997 through 2001, the Web was dominant in ICHIM content and process. ICHIM focused on cultural heritage and digital publishing, which, particularly in Europe, was funded by ministries of education across all disciplines of learning. This attracted broad attendance from the emerging field of digital cultural heritage. After 2001, ICHIM settled for 4 years in Europe. We located it in major cultural institutions in Milan, Paris, and Berlin. Under the management of Xavier Perrot, ICHIM became a hybrid conference involving artists and scientists exhibiting hypermedia installations, and new media specialists from cultural repositories applying multimedia in education. With Xavier’s death in 2007, the conference was moved back to North America for its final iteration.

We are particularly pleased to have these papers from ICHIM07 republished in Museum Management and Curatorship. The five papers selected by the editors of this issue combine much of what is best about the ICHIM perspective – bringing management thinking to bear on the question of how best to implement interactivity within a museum context, now and in the future. They explore themes that have been persistent since ICHIM first began.

In a blog posting from 2007,[2] David Bearman reflected on themes from past ICHIMs, noting that much of what we assume some days is new, is actually quite persistent since the birth of interactive multimedia. For example, at ICHIM91:

In this issue of MMC, Dawson examines institutional change at the Canadian Museum of Science in the context of museum interaction innovations reported in recent years. He uses a theoretical scaffolding from the literature of process innovation to frame a case study of social media opportunities for museums.  Peacock grounds his discussion of organizational change within the management and sociology literature. To him the specifics of new technology opportunities are less important than organizational readiness to adopt change.

Ciolfi, Bannon and Fernström look one major vector of change within museums: the effort to expand opportunities for user participation. While their case study is most concerned with implications of visitor contributions for interaction design, they recognize that the institutional impacts of user-generated content are one component of what drives design decisions.

Wakkary and colleagues situate tangible user interface research, and their development of handheld museum guides, within the context of research dating back to 1992 and incorporating a broad range of museum innovations.

Bearman and Geber explore ways of understanding institutional change in a museum setting and explore ways that museums might use the evolving technology of the next decade, delving into the potential implications of such changes on museum missions. If they are right, the wave of change brought about by location-aware computing will have an even greater impact on museums than the tsunami of the World Wide Web.

Other papers presented at ICHIM07 are available on-line from http://www.archimuse.com/ichim07/speakers/index.html

When ICHIM began, there were few venues for professionals working in cultural heritage informatics to convene, discuss, share and imagine. Now, with large-scale, multi-national projects, a number of scholarly journals, and conference series like the various Digital Libraries (DL) meetings, VAST, and Museums and the Web, there are many forums to meet and explore. This special issue of Museum Management and Curatorship celebrates the contribution ICHIM made to forming this rich, evolving landscape of digital cultural heritage research and practice. We are grateful to have played a small part in it.

David Bearman and Jennifer Trant
Archives & Museum Informatics

Co-Chairs, International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting (ICHIM07)


1.     On-line versions of all ICHIM papers and the full history of the conferences are at:
http://www.archimuse.com/conferences/ichim.html

2.    Bearman, D., “ICHIM91 papers are surprisingly fresh and relevant today”, dbear's blog @ conference.archimuse.com, published February 17, 2007 at http://conference.archimuse.com/blog/dbear/ichim91_papers_are_surprisingly_fresh_and_relevan

3.    Gibbs, S. and D. Tsichritzis (1991).  Virtual Museums and Virtual Realities. In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. Available at http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch3.pdf

4.    Wilson, K. (1991).  Multimedia Design Research for the Museum Education Consortium's Museum Visitors Prototype. In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch4.pdf

5.    Woolsey, K., and R. Semper (1991). Multimedia in Public Space. In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch6.pdf

6.    Allison, D., and T. Gwaltney (1991). How People Use Electronic Interactives in Information Age - People, Information & Technology. In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch9.pdf

7.    Friedlander, L. (1991). Electrifying Shakespeare: Modern Day Technology in a Renaissance Museum. In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch14.pdf

8.    Krueger, M. (1991). In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch25.pdf

9.    Lewis, P. (1991). Taking the British Golf Museum Home. In Hypermedia & Interactivity in Museums, Proceedings of an International Conference. Archives & Museum Informatics. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/hypermedia/hypermedia.Ch17.pdf

Informatics: The interdisciplinary study of information content, representation, technology and applications,
and the methods and strategies by which information is used in organizations, networks, cultures and societies.