Welcome to “A Series of Epistolary Romances”

The second experiment from the CODE | WORDS collective

Detail from Brieflezende Vrouw, by Johannes Vermeer. PD image courtesy of the Rijksmuseum — http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/collectie/SK-C-251

CODE│WORDS is an ongoing effort to gather and harness the discourse occurring among the museum technology community, the quantity and quality of which have grown and matured tremendously over the past decade. Conversations online and at conferences regularly tackle challenging questions regarding the identity of museums, their roles in society, their responsibilities to serve a global public, and the nature of collecting, preservation, education, scholarship, primary research, and ethics in a digital age. CODE│WORDS aims to explore ways to spread new ideas, and to engage the global community of museum professionals in exploring how we respond to challenges and opportunities digital technologies present.

Ultimately, we wish to explore how our ways of ‘being in the world’ are changing in response to digital technologies, and what this means for museums and the cultural heritage sector.


Our first eponymous experiment, which ran from May 2014 through September 2015, can be found on Medium in the CODE|WORDS publication.

The solicited essays are also available in book form from MuseumsEtc. Several of the essays were revised and updated for this edition. A portion of the proceeds generated from using the above link go to the Museum Computer Network Scholarship Fund.


A Series of Epistolary Romances

Epistolary: Relating to or denoting the writing of letters or literary works in the form of letters: an epistolary novel
Romance: a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting.

The second CODE | WORDS experiment is called “A Series of Epistolary Romances”. Like the first experiment, it is designed to generate and facilitate online discussion about topics of import to the international museum community. This experiment will endeavor to privilege the discursive, conversational element that the original project was unable to generate. “A Series of Epistolary Romances” is comprised of twelve pairs of authors who will correspond with each other over the course of at least a month about a particular topic of interest to the community.

These “letters” will be posted online on Medium, and be accessible to the public. Over the course of a month, the two authors will share their views about their topic, elaborate on each other’s ideas, critique, and hopefully bring each other (and the community of readers) to a fuller understanding of their views on the subject. We currently see there being a series of twelve pairs, with a new “romance” commencing every month.

As a culmination to each correspondence, an online face-to-face conversation will be held between a group of professionals and the authors, which the larger museum public will be invited to watch and submit questions for. At the end of the month, all the discourse will be aggregated and appended to the correspondence, so a record of the whole conversation is captured and presented in one place.

Each Romance will share a similar structure:

  • An intro to issue, its relevance, and context setting by the editors. The author bios will be included as well.
  • The series of letters
  • Google Hangout On Air/Twitter chat/Facebook comment period
  • Storify (or equivalent) of commentary appended to letters.

A Series of Epistolary Romances: CODE | WORDS 2.0 Instigators:

Suse Cairns, John Gordy, Daniel Meyers, Ed Rodley, Rachel Ropeik, Jenn Schmitt

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