Title:Beyond the Building: Creating and Supporting Communities Based on Place
Authors:Rebecca Hawcroft
Publication:MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015

How can we recognise place as it functions in the digital space, and what does it mean for museum engagement? The digital sector has seen an explosion in locational technology, mapping applications, and social-media platforms capturing and sharing interactions with places. Attachment to place has been explored in sociology and cultural studies for decades and is recognised as a key part of identity creation. As digital communities based on place connections emerge across the Web, what is the place of the museum within these conversations?

This paper finds that place plays a key part in individual and community identity within digital culture. What place does the museum occupy within this context? Due to transient and amorphous digital communities, competing with the task of identifying and connecting to an audience is increasingly challenging. The strengthening of place attachment can be seen as a key strategy in supporting the collective identity of a visiting community. Equally, with social-media programs and digitised collections, museums are able to create and connect to multiple communities in dispersed locations.

Place remains a potent force for museum engagement as well, as a number of recent initiatives that position the museum at the centre of a place-based community demonstrate. With a focus on digitised collections, the paper also identifies the potential to make multiple and dispersed connections based on place. The inclusion of location in collection management approaches, walks, storytelling, and memory projects, are identified as mechanisms that link place connections back to the museum.