A series of permanent collection images from various museums, eventually eclipsed by “No Image Available” icons
A series of permanent collection images from various museums, eventually eclipsed by “No Image Available” icons
Sally King McBride, 2020

Précis: As museums close their physical spaces due to the mandate of social distancing, their digital collections take on unprecedented importance: sustaining their audience engagement, enabling ongoing scholarship, and inspiring all of us to #museumfromhome. Might the full digitization of a museum’s permanent collection be a worthy priority going forward? — a means of virtual art conservation and future-proofing the collection.

“We are only as valuable as the information we keep.” So noted Elizabeth Gorayeb, Executive Director of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute in a compelling keynote delivered on March 5, 2020 — just a few days before New York City declared a State of Emergency. Her words, which kicked off a day-long conference entitled “Digitization and the State-of-the-(Art)World,” would take on a much weightier context the following week, when museums across the country shuttered to visitors, and the movement to #museumfromhome emerged for art-lovers everywhere. …


Sculptural Frieze of the Met Museum Roof recedes towards the Philip Johnson-designed apartment building on Fifth Avenue
Sculptural Frieze of the Met Museum Roof recedes towards the Philip Johnson-designed apartment building on Fifth Avenue
Photo Sally McBride, 2017.

Adapting to the pace of the digital age will require an acceleration in the work culture of most museums. How can they preserve the necessarily slow rhythm of scholarship while adopting the fast pace of the contemporary professional environment?

Working fast and slow, a riff on Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), which outlined two systems for how humans are driven to think: System 1: fast, emotional, intuitive — the fight or flight instinct; System 2: slow: deliberative, logical. It occurred to me to train this bifurcated lens on the work culture within today’s museums: working, fast and slow. Fast: the institutional need for swift, nimble, revenue-generating activity, more prevalent today than ever.

About

Sally McBride

Partnerships + Communications @CultureTech, formerly @metmuseum. (Practicing artist at sallykingmcbride.com)

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