The past few years have seen an increasing emphasis on digital interpretation, outputs and capabilities within the museum sector. New and evolving technology offers amazing ways to interpret and display collections, and for engaging audiences.
Major funders increasingly anticipate that technology is utilised, with digital outputs and strategies promoted by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and a myriad of funds and trusts.
This focus, alongside the rapid evolution of digital technologies into nearly every aspect of our lives, is generating a huge increase in digital files, documents, images and artefacts.
As we move away from physical objects, we risk losing the ability to care for our cultural heritage, and assume future generations will have the time, inclination and skills to manage digital collections. Data can easily be corrupted, made inaccessible through propriety software or lost through poor management and preservation. This is unacceptable for a sector that aims to preserve, and promote access to, a rich social and cultural heritage.
Funders, strategic leads and sector support organisations need to join forces to plan for the future – for instance, supporting a trusted digital repository for the museum and cultural sector. Museums must consider how to care for our digital heritage just as much as we do with our physical, social, economic and documentary heritage.
Paddy McNulty is a museums consultant and the director of Paddy McNulty Associates