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What has meant for heritage to become digital? My Keynote at HistoInformatics 2021!!🤩

Has being digital changed how we understand memory and knowledge? Here's what I have to say about it.

The classic cultural heritage paradigm “preserved = worth preserving” implies the questionable relation “digitised = worth preserving” and the even more troubling one “not digitised = not worth preserving?

When some twenty years ago, heritage institutions started to digitise huge quantities of heritage material, the semantic motivation behind it was that of preserving cultural resources from deterioration or disappearance. The direct consequences of such discourse were that: 1) the digitisation process was framed as a heritagising operation in itself (i.e., “digitising =

preserving”) and 2) any digitised content became content intrinsically worth preserving, (i.e., “digitised = worth preserving”). But because especially at the beginning, less mainstream works and minority voices were largely excluded from digitisation programs, digitised material perpetuated previous decisions about what was worth preserving (i.e., “not digitised = not worth preserving”).

In the context of digital cultural heritage, the question of whether it is or it is not authentic truly doesn’t make sense

I challenge traditional assumptions of authenticity and completeness, and I argue that the digital object must be understood as an unfinished, situated process. I want to propose a new approach, a post-authentic framework. This means acknowledging our collective responsibility that comes with building a source of knowledge for current and future generations. Thus, the role of documentation by researchers, museums, archives, libraries must act as a means to acknowledge that the past is written in the present and that writing the past means controlling the future. Post-authenticity creates a system to meet the need for accountability to current and future generations.

Thinking about digital heritage as post-authentic means thinking of it not just in terms of what we are digitizing but also how and for whom

Watch the keynote here

Read the keynote paper here


Department of Art and Culture, History, and Antiquity

Faculty of Humanities

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (VU )
De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands

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