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AASL Column, March 2013

March 7, 2013

Barbara Opar, column editor

The purpose of this month’s column is two-fold. First of all, I wish to draw your attention to a new digital cultural heritage project. Project CHART’s Brooklyn Visual Heritage has just been launched by the Brooklyn Public Library.  This website provides access to newly digitized 19th and 20th century photographs and related material from the collections of the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Public Library. The project is to be lauded for its collaborative nature.

At the same time, this new project reminds me of an important work edited by Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine.  Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse was published in 2010 by MIT Press and consists of twenty essays covering different aspects of the presentation of cultural content in a digital format. Navigating Brooklyn Visual Heritage illustrates the changing nature of visual research. While cultural heritage websites have long enabled researchers to become familiar with archival content before visiting the institution(s), today’s sites serve as more than surrogates. The sites allow for interpretation of content and can create their own “story”.

In Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage, Cameron and Kenderdine present essays which address this topic as well as discuss examples of how technology can be used to further the user’s interaction with digital content. “Hyperdocuments” and inverse engineering which teams up archaeology and computer technology to advance research are two of the methods presented in this text as applications which can enhance the user experience.

Brooklyn Visual Heritage, while interdisciplinary in nature, is still an example of a more traditional site. But as you navigate this site as well as others focusing on cultural artifacts, consider how technology can and will allow for different experiences with archival material. 

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