Linking museum and community-based archives in a postdigital world
Katja Müller (Halle University)
Paper short abstract:
In India digital photo archives are used for encounters with historic legacies. Yet, museums need to engage with the communities driving these archives in a social media world, if they want to revive their collections and include them into the current cultural productions based on online archives.
Paper long abstract:
Among ethnographic museum collections are numerous photographic archives as visual traces of often colonial times. They are a material legacy, yet the focus is often on the images' content, which is a technical reproduction of a certain place and time. As such, anthropological archival photographs are predestined for second reproduction, which digital techniques allow for. In postethnographic times, when museums opt for encounters and transcultural co-operations, digitizing photographs and putting them online provides a very broad if not the broadest range for dissemination of cultural heritage. Online dissemination of anthropological photographs - and arguably of digitized artefacts as well - offers means of (re)appropriating heritage as a shared one. Yet, my analysis of digital photo archives in Indian contexts - an area with a strong focus on and a long history of visuality - indicates that there are grave differences in numbers and ways museum-based and community-based photographic archives are used and received. In today's world where cultural production is strongly informed by social and digital media, museums can't afford to detach museum-based archives from those created online by other stakeholders. They rather need to rethink the still prevailing concepts of the aura of the (museumized) documents and artefacts in order to inform postdigital cultural production, which to an increasing extent engages with visual historic legacies.
Re-visioning material anthropological legacies for cosmo-optimal futures