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Museums & Society Newsfeed

Title: Holiday Challenge
Keywords: museums, news, students

In a recent blog post Scottish writer Allan Massie suggests it may not really matter whether artworks (read also: artifacts, historic documents and other significant material culture) leave their originating contexts because digital media can make these accessible to everyone, forever and from anywhere. The Brontë Society in Yorkshire may dispute Massie's notion, having just lost the "most significant manuscript by Charlotte Brontë to be discovered for decades" to the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris (read about it here). A few years ago, critics challenged Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton's acquisitions on similar grounds, arguing that she was removing masterpieces from their rightful homes, although more recently these same critics have been praising her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (some do continue to note the ethical questions raised by Wal-Mart funding such a museum however: see Jeffrey Goldberg's article on What is at stake here? And are digital surrogates adequate substitutes for originals? or perhaps even better than originals because they allow us to build an infinite variety of imaginary museums - ones that  make interpretative choices not limited by bricks and mortar? Could this simply be the latest iteration of museums "freeing works of art from their expected performance" (A. Malraux, "Imaginary Museum," in The Voices of Silence, trans. S. Gilbert (London, 1954), 12)? Tell us what your imaginary museum would hold and how it improves on the works' current homes. Post your response on our facebook page (link here).

Jennifer Kingsley

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