Digital Dilemmas: The Impact of Digital Tools on Photograph Collections
Digital technologies and environments increasingly move photographs beyond the walls of the museum and beyond their once material status. In this chapter I am going to consider the shifting digital infrastructures and their influence on the work of photographs in museums. Digital technologies have been part of the museum sector for more than 40 years and are now completely naturalized within practices of both photographic collections and the wider use of photographs in museums. Further, the Internet has presented museums with issues of dissemination online, finding the right technical platforms, of clarifying copyright issues and addressing the potentials and pitfalls of the social web.1 Consequently it is useful to track the emergence of the digital as a key tool and the assumptions that inform it. For digital photographic infrastructures are part of the processes and entities that make up the ecosystems which link museums and wider society in a series of mutually sustaining practices. Photograph collections have, of course, always been part of a larger museum context. However, some decades into the digital era, increasing attention is being given to these ecosystems as they now involve new participants, infrastructures, processes and decisions. This affects photograph collections and, in turn, evolving museum practices.