And now, it’s time for some (recent) institutional history…
In the summer of 2007, several months before The Commons were launched by Flickr in partnership with the Library of Congress, the Magnes began sharing images from its Archives, Library and Museum collection on Flickr (the first set, created between July 3rd and August 21st, 2007, can be found here) – but also, jointly, on our institutional website. These first steps, initially taken by Francesco Spagnolo as a Magnes research project, soon developed thanks to the collaboration with John Fox, creator of MemoryMiner, and eventually culminated in the creation of an articulated platform aiming at the integration of curatorial and archival processing methodologies with the creation and publication of digital archives, involving all Magnes staff. Perian Sully, Collection Information Manager, was a key partner in this project, especially as it also began to interface with the Magnes integrated Archive, Library and Museum collection database.
Since then, the digital programs of the Magnes have included the Jewish Digital Narratives (curated digital presentations of collection assets published on both Flickr and the website), From the Dusty Archives… (Flickr sets aiming at the minimal processing of digital archival collections by integrating the use of social media with the Magnes collection database), and the Memory Lab (an interactive laboratory to create personal digital archives within an institutional framework). These programs try to find an alignment between the use of technology, curatorial and archival methodologies, broadcasting techniques, and narrative theory (including oral history). The attempt is thus to establish direct ties between collection work (traditionally “behind the scenes”) and public visibility, between personal memories and institutional history, while opening up the interpretation of cultural heritage to the modular, collaborative, and “re-combinatory” options that the digital renaissance seems to offer. The institutional “voice” is preserved (in the institutional website, and in the implicit, yet structuring narrative of the collection database), while public discourse, and public interest, are encouraged through a variety of social media options supported by a consistent use of copyright terms provided by the Creative Commons.
John Fox produced a fascinating video that summarizes the collaboration between the Magnes and MemoryMiner, focusing especially on the Memory Lab, which is now been understood as a template for museums and other cultural heritage institutions interested in harvesting visitor-contributed knowledge.
Three years, three thousand Flickr images, and 65,000 online views later, the digital projects of the Magnes are still gaining momentum. The new Magnes website, which is currently being developed in Drupal in collaboration with Outhink Media, attempts to integrate the three main new media approaches (institutional website, collection database, and social media) and the present and future digital programs of the Magnes under the umbrella of a single publishing/broadcasting platform. (It’s still to soon to unveil this project, but its official release is not that far away… a few preview screenshots are included in the Slideshare presentation below).
As you can imagine, all this thinking, and doing, has sparked several interesting conversations and partnerships, including presentations at the Council of American Jewish Museums, at the Working Group on Jews, Media and Religion of the Center for Religion and Media (NYU), the Association for Jewish Studies, the California Association of Museums, the Internet Archive, and the Creative Commons.
Following a visit to the Memory Lab by our colleagues at the California Digital Library, we were invited to participate in a session on Archives and the Web 2.0 at the upcoming Northwest Archivists Western Roundup (Seattle, April 29-May 1, 2010), coordinated by Polina Ilieva (UCSF). This is an excellent chance to begin summarizing the genesis of the project, as it is about to move into its next iteration in the new Magnes website.
Unfortunately, I cannot be there in person and participate in the discussion, but I am happy to share my notes for the session below.