Title:Cultural Collections as Data: Aiming for Digital Data Literacy and Tool Development
Authors:Liz Neely, Anne Luther, Chad Weinard
Publication:MW2019: MuseWeb 2019

With the advent of web browsers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the cultural sector made huge breakthroughs in collections research and access as museums and other cultural institutions began publishing their collections information on the Web. But several problems have continued to thwart the next revolution in re-thinking the broad ways in which museum collections research can encourage use of digital collections. Data ownership, authority in data validation and terminology, technological progress, a digital divide, data ethics, and algorithmic bias are a selection of discourses that need to be considered in a long-standing history of digitizing cultural collections to create a digital literacy of museum data. Considerate decisions about the development of new tools that allow museums to more easily share, visualize, comprehend and analyze cultural data need to reference these discourses in their extensive design. What are the possibilities for learning from digital humanities and promoting use of museum digital collections as data? How do we go beyond providing APIs and other open data sets to promote a transformation for how these data are used for exploration, computational research,
and creative re-generation?

In this forum, panelists will survey current practice and learn from the aligned discipline of digital humanities for a closer look at using collections as data. How can museums act to fundamentally change the way we think about publishing and producing tools for generating new knowledge? What are the ways in which museums can acknowledge, examine, and provide access to interrogate ethical uses of data and cataloging practices as part of the decolonization of museums?

Panelists will share concepts and work from the digital humanities, the field of interactive data visualization, examples from the panelists’ own projects with museums and other emerging collections as data usage in the cultural heritage field.