Two interesting research projects

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This week I came across two research projects that are touching upon the same questions that I am currently working with.

Two days ago I was so lucky that I was able to attend a talk by Ross Parry at the Department of Education here in Oxford. Parry is the program director for Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, and he has digital heritage as his main research field. Wednesday he talked about his new project called “Museums and make-believe. Reclaiming the illusory within heritage.” This project will continue his previous work about the relation between the museum and the computer. Museums have been quite sceptical about computers and digital media, and Parry argues that this is because computers seem to do the complete opposite of what museums do. Museums rely on the original, the authentic and the empirical evidence, while digital media and the internet often are associated with the copy, the manipulated and the fictional. Parry’s argument is that the features of the computer also have been important aspects of museum practice through the history. The authenticity museums rely on is not only created by facts. Imitation, immersion, illustration and irony has been as important argues Parry. This relation between factual historicity and imitation is something I am discussing in my thesis, but specificly related to the use of media texts. Media texts are both used as illustrative, immersive elements, but also as historical evidences and traces from the past (as objects are), and I see it as one of the museum’s challenges to be able to balance the two. Maybe will Parry’s study provide some helpful reflections on how museums historically and today are balancing between the factual and the illusionary.

The second project I was made aware of by a tweet from @formidlingsnet. Christian Hviid Mortensen has announced the start-up of his PhD project Radio as immaterial heritage in a museological context. You can read about it here, on formidlingsnet.dk, or on his newly started blog. One of his main focuses will be how to “display” radio recordings as objects in cultural history museums, because sound usually ends up as an aesthetic effect. This question is really close to what I am dealing with, and I look forward to follow his study. Media texts are getting more and more important for museums, both as sources and exhibition elements. Knowledge about how media texts produced outside the museum, should be treated in an exhibition is therefore very welcome.