I am interested in digital heritage, particularly the way in which the digital changes the heritage. That is, my research revolves around the study of changes brought by digital technology in the heritage field.
I approach this historically, not only in the long decades that heritage institutions and their public have endured to reinvent themselves, but also by comparing the process of adopting digital technology to events found in the past. For this, I draw into the literature of Information Science. I further take an economic approach, identifying actors, incentives, and roles in processes of production, distribution and consumption and by exploring mechanisms that reflect changes in value (e.g. consumer preference).
There are three main lines of research in my work: consumption of digital heritage, production of digital heritage, and metrics and performance indicators to evaluate change of digital heritage.
Consumption of digital heritage:
The first consumers of digital collections were the museum staff. I have studied the relation between the needs of the consumer and the systems to organize and distribute digital collections. A case of the Dutch museums can be found here.
Consumer data is not always available. I’m very grateful to the Wikipedia community for allowing accessibility of their user data. One research interest has been to understand consumer preference of digital heritage found in Wikipedia. One case looked at the Amsterdam ethnographic museum collection (read here). Currently, I’m collaborating with the Dutch Wikimedia Foundation to identify the preference of editors using heritage content to illustrate Wikipedia articles.
In order to understand the possible implications of digital heritage consumption, I will identify the changes in social capital brought by consumption of culture. One case will look into the relation of musical collections and social change. Indicators identified will be applied to the online environment for comparison. Does the availability of digital heritage change social capital?
Availability of digital content online has lead to new forms of consumption, that offer many possibilities for museums to develop new services. I argue there is a new digital heritage tourist emerging.
Production of digital heritage:
With museums as starting point, I have studied the changes in organizational structure that follow the adoption of a digital work practice. I have argued here that the adoption of a digital work practice leads to a number of benefits, not only increasing efficiency but also, and most importantly, becoming part of a networked society for the exchange of knowledge.
A book about museums adopting computers can be found here. I document a half century effort to become digital and argue for a balance between distribution of quality content and development of online channels for display.
I have further argued that the availability and digital distribution of heritage collections is a key ingredient for the stimulation of innovation, in the cultural sector, the creative industries and beyond. Read the paper here.
Measures, statistics, and performance indicators:
As a researcher, I’m very aware of the need of sound data. For this reason, I have been involved in several projects to support the development of digital heritage statistics. For example, I was part of the first European digital heritage statistic exercise which has lead to ENUMERATE, which I have continued to support at different capacities. The latest version of the European digital statistics project intends to provide an overview of data sources, serving as observatory to harmonize various efforts, currently available as part of the Europeana website here.
Another international effort to develop standard datasets about digital museum activities is the European Group of Museum Statistics (EGMUS), where I have contributed since 2014.
Beyond Europe, I have also advocated for the adoption of digital measures that go beyond number of visits to the museum, either onsite or online. My presentation at the UNESCO statistics meeting (Spring 2016) is available to read here and to watch here.
For the application of economic theory on digital heritage see:
“Digital Cultural Heritage.” In Rizzo, Ilde and Anna Mignosa (eds.) (2013) Handbook Economics of Cultural Heritage. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 251-271.
“Museums.” In Handke, Christian and Ruth Towse (eds.) (2013) Handbook of the Digital Creative Economy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 330-343.