Digitised heritage, online audiences and shifting relations of trust

Jen Ross, Eleanor Capaldi, Melissa Terras, Christopher Ganley, Maìri Lafferty

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Digital access to cultural heritage is important to policymakers, publics, and organisations, with most European galleries, libraries, archives and museums investing in collections digitisation. The growth of open licensing, and the tendency of digital objects to circulate in unanticipated ways, means that these objects can be detached from their organisational, historical or cultural context, generating new kinds of encounters with heritage. How can and should digital objects carry context, expertise, and authority? What are the implications of decontextualisation of cultural heritage for the authority of heritage organisations? What forms of authority do online audiences exercise, knowinginly or unknowingly? Importantly, what are the future relations of trust that may emerge in these new (post)digital landscapes, where heritage is constituted by increasingly "dynamic intersections of people, objects and places” (Waterton and Watson 2013, 553)? Drawing on an emerging case study from the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), this talk will explore the balance and flow of trust between cultural heritage organisations and online audiences as digital culture and cultural data becomes more mobile. NGS, like other organisations investing seriously in open licensing and digitisation, needs to grapple with new forms of trustworthiness and authority, and to examine critically the potential gains and losses involved in shifting organisational boundaries as digital cultural heritage becomes increasingly decontextualised. We will argue that the ‘cultural processes and activities that are undertaken at or around’ things (Smith 2006, p3) need to account for a more fragmented, less predictable set of relations – requiring new forms of trust to emerge.

Smith, L. 2006. Uses of Heritage. Abingdon: Routledge
Waterton, E., and S. Watson. 2013. “Framing Theory: Towards a Critical Imagination in Heritage Studies.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 19 (6): 546–561.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Jan 2020
EventAssociation of Critical Heritage Studies Conference -
Duration: 27 Aug 202030 Aug 2020


ConferenceAssociation of Critical Heritage Studies Conference


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