Collecting Collections and digital ways of knowing

Haidy Geismar, UCL

Talpa sp, Mole, Adult, Z2754 UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, © 2014 UCL. CC BY-NC-SA license.

Talpa sp, Mole, Adult, Z2754
UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, © 2014 UCL. CC BY-NC-SA license.

 

Last term I taught parallel undergraduate and Masters seminars exploring the creation of knowledge systems in museums and the effects of shifts towards the digital on the organization of knowledge and museum epistemologies. All the students had to create a project that digitally presented a series of objects, drawn from across UCL Museums and Collections and created a new digital collection environment. The project aimed not to create an online exhibition but to think about the potentials, and limitations, of digital representation and modes of organization for creating knowledge about both specific objects and from the collecting together of different objects. The undergraduates had to digitally collect 5 objects using an open source platform supported and hosted by UCL (My Portfolio, built on Mahara). The Postgraduates had to collect 8 objects and were allowed to experiment and choose any software platform that they wanted. The project was a really interesting way to unpack the process of collecting, the dominance of certain ways of knowing over others in digital space, and the capacity of digital technologies to develop new ways of thinking about collections. Below are the series of Postgraduate projects sites, all of them contain a curator’s comment which explains the form and nature of the collection and explores the nature of digital collecting. I learnt things about UCL collections, discovered objects I never knew existed (including a cowboy boot in the Ethnography collections) and really came to appreciate the limits and benefits of different platforms as interpretive frameworks for understanding material culture and materiality.

A handful of the best undergraduate projects are linked to here: Elise Boileau created an entire biography of a victorian lady bell maker made up from objects from her personal collection. Ana Morales experimented with the digital representation of different sensory orders for objects. Edith Dormandy experimented with the representational differences between handwritten and typed text, and Benjamin Leggett explored the quality of sound in UCL’s Ethnography Collections.

Below is also a portfolio of the Master’s project, click through to see each one.

 

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