Yearning to Fly: The Roots of our Ambitions and the Future of Museum Technology

Paul Marty, Florida State University, USA

Quick — when was this written? “Information systems that encompass the full spectrum of museum resources will create the opportunity of restructuring the museum environment itself. To illustrate, the museum’s computer could be programmed to direct the operation of an orientation gallery where the visitor’s prospective encounter with the institution’s bewildering assortment of material might be individually styled. One could then choose an itinerary designed to his unique requirements.”

You might be surprised to know that Everett Ellin, one of the founders of the Museum Computer Network, published this in 1969, in Computers and the Humanities, 4(1): 25-30. If you were not surprised, count yourself lucky — many people are not aware of how far back the history of museum technology goes, or how many of the “new ideas” we discuss at conferences today have such strong roots in our professional past.

Technologies are recent, flashy, and fantastic, while ideas are old and easily forgotten. As we look forward to another Museums and the Web conference showcasing our latest and greatest accomplishments, it is important for us all to keep in mind the roots of our ambitions, and to remember that while technologies change quickly, the dreams and beliefs that shape a society do not. And it is our shared ideas that drive us forward, and together, create our future.

As a professional organization, we do a tremendous job of pushing technological boundaries in ways that the museum technologists of the past could never, in their wildest dreams, have predicted. But just because something is implemented in a new way today, doesn’t mean it wasn’t done, or at least considered, in a different way in the past. By celebrating our accomplishments, past and present, this lightning talk will emphasize the mutual obligation we owe ourselves as a professional community to remember the past, and inspire us all to take up our shared visions and bear them to ever greater heights in the years to

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