Title:The End of the Mausoleum: Museums in the Age of Electronic Communication
Authors:Andrea Witcomb
Publication:MW97: Museums and the Web 1997

Museums have often been understood in both intellectual and popular circles as mausoleums, as centers of accumulation of objects which no longer have a living relationship with the present. This is an image which makes it almost impossible to associate the museum with debates about contemporary cultural issues. In this paper I want to propose that this is no longer a valid way of representing the museum, largely because the museum is now deeply implicated in electronic media flows making it an important site for the newly emerging 'information society'. This new relationship between electronic technologies and museums has fundamentally questioned the traditional museum's orientation to objects, an orientation which, I argue, led to the image of museums as mausoleums in the first place. As a result the metaphors we associate with museums are beginning to change, away from the idea of the museum as disconnected from the social world towards the opposite -- the museum as a site of cultural, technological and social convergences. This involves a re-evaluation of the role of objects in museums as well as that of the curator and museum's relationships to communities.