Archives & Museum Informatics








last updated:
November 30, 2017 12:56 PM

Unifying our cultural memory: Could electronic environments bridge the historical accidents that fragment cultural collections?

in Information Landscapes for a Learning Society, Networking and the Future of Libraries 3, 1998. and presentation at UK Office of Library Networking Conference, July 1998.

David Bearman and Jennifer Trant, Partners, Archives & Museum Informatics, USA



There are many impediments to implementing such an integrated system, not the least of which is cost. It is no surprise that the costs of scholarship are high or that scholars are unable to pay the full cost. Society has, through various means, subsidized knowledge creation and use and networked use will require continued subsidy. New models are required, however, to provide access to digital culture.31 Means can be invented to share the costs of sophisticated access between parties desiring to get and receive such services. The Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) represents such a new model of cost sharing between users and creators of scholarly resources. In this model, AMICO member institutions, which hold primary materials of interest to scholars, bear the full cost of creating digital representations that have the properties which users desire. A variety of content distributors, already providing services to the appropriate educational user community, bear the costs of developing applications that will satisfy user needs. Users pay the costs of compiling information provided by individual repositories into value added product and delivering that to their chosen distributor, as well as the costs which the distributor needs to recover for having developed delivery services. In the end, subscribing institutions pay only a fraction of the full cost - much of which was borne by the AMICO museums and the distributors.32

Systems that enable a dialogue between information providers and users are one of the best way to build our knowledge of research processes, and to ensure that the requirements of those processes are considered in the creation and distribution of digital documents. A call for this collaboration ran through the Research Agenda for Networked Cultural Heritage33, and has resurfaced in discussions sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies.34 We hope that the technical dialogue about metadata delivery, the social investigation of changing communication patterns and needs, and the economic innovations required to support scholarship can be advanced by the models presented here, and that further research will lead us along these paths to truly integrated cultural heritage resources over the Internet.


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.