|Title:||The Virtual Aura—Is There Space for Enchantment in a Technological World?|
|Publication:||MW2001: Museums and the Web 2001|
As Walter Benjamin described in his famous essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", the role of art in society and the notion that art has become modified through mechanical reproduction has engaged not only artists, but also curators and the museum public. Benjamin embraced the severing of the quasi-mystical 'aura' from the original as a potentially liberating phenomenon, both for the reproduction of works of art and for the art of film, thereby making works of art widely available, introducing new forms of perception in film and photography and allowing art to move from private to public, from the elite to the masses. While the loss of the aura for Benjamin represented new possibilities, what was forfeited in this process were the 'aura' and the authority of the object containing within it the values of cultural heritage and tradition. This paper evaluates the different ways that museums are responding to life on the Net, and will look to three models of museum Web-sites: the documentation of traditional collections through online databases, the virtual museum with no concrete counterpart to resonate the online experience and the proliferation of Web based contemporary art. This attempt to map out the different ways that museums formulate their identity on the Net will address the notion of the lost aura or perhaps the emergence of new cultural phenomena, the virtual aura.