In the mid-1990s, when many museums were beginning to take their first hesitant steps toward building online personae, the worry still holding many back was that if a collection or experience were available online, in-person visitation would invariably decline (; ; ). In the 25 years since, that fear has largely been dispelled even as our technical ability to digitally capture and disseminate cultural collections has improved exponentially, even to the point that the online experience in some ways exceeds the in-person experience. Indeed, museums have moved far beyond the ability to show a few images of the major works in a collection, adding opportunities that mirror almost all the offerings of the in-person experience. But even this “Mona Lisa” effect has not driven in-person visitation down. Rather the opposite. Anyone who has elbowed through the crowds at many of the world's best-known museums can attest to that. Indeed, having been among this ubiquitous press of people, I could not help but think on such occasions that it would take an act of God to reduce the numbers and improve the quality of viewing.
Sheila K. Hoffman
Sheila K. Hoffman, Conal McCarthy, and Billie Lythberg
25th ICOM General Conference. International Conference Center, Kyoto, Japan, 1–7 September 2019 by Sheila K. Hoffman
Interaction, Integration, and Flow. Researching the Museum in the Global Contemporary, Shaanxi Normal University, Xian, 15–20 September 2019 by Conal McCarthy
‘Amui ‘i Mu'a: Ancient Futures Conference Tanoa International Dateline Hotel, Tonga, 7–12 October 2019 by Billie Lythberg
Sheila K. Hoffman, Dominique Poulot, Bruno Brulon-Soares, and Joanna Cobley
There is no doubt that we live in fraught times. In the world of museums and cultural heritage protection, we feel it keenly. As symbols and microcosms of respective cultures, museums are thought to reflect society or, at the very least, sections of society or certain historical moments. But the extent to which museums should and do reflect the diversity of people in those societies is the question du jour. Sometimes, it seems as if this question is an internal one—the practical struggle of often underfunded institutions to square the injustices of a past that is encoded into collections with a newfound awareness of visitors, or the theoretical debate about just how multivocal, democratic, and oriented toward social justice a museum can be before it ceases to be a “museum.” The consequences of such struggles and debates can often seem far removed from the concerns of ordinary residents, who may only occasionally visit museums or heritage monuments. Our perception of this disregard perhaps calls into question the impact of our work. But in times of crisis, that doubt is removed and the relevance of cultural heritage becomes clear. Crisis often crystallizes what is most important. That is not surprising. In this special section, we explore the sometimes surprising nature of the aftermath.
Sven Grabow, Dominique Poulot, Emma Waterton, Sheila K. Hoffman, and Masaaki Morishita
Book Review Essays
Sustaining the Past into the Future: Some Reflections on Mechanisms to Keep Heritage Meaningful and Sustainable
Theory and Practice in Heritage and Sustainability: Between Past and Future. Elizabeth Auclair and Graham Fairclough, eds. London: Routledge, 2015.
Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage, Mia Ridge, ed. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014.
Museums, Power, Knowledge: Selected Essays. Tony Bennett. London: Routledge, 2018.
Collecting, Ordering, Governing: Anthropology, Museums, and Liberal Government. Tony Bennett, Fiona Cameron, Nélia Dias, Ben Dibley, Rodney Harrison, Ira Jacknis, and Conal McCarthy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
The Museum of the Senses. Constance Classen. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
New Museum Practice in Asia. John Reeve and Caroline Lang, eds. London: Lund Humphries, 2018.