Representing the Web: How Has the National Museum of American History Collected and Curated Internet-Related Technology?

Petrina Foti, University of Leicester, USA

Published paper: Representing the Web: How has the National Museum of American History collected and curated internet-related technology?

The main objective of this study is to investigate how the curators of the National Museum of American History have collected and interpreted objects relating to the internet and Web. This current research, part of a larger study into how the curatorial staff at the history and technology museums of the Smithsonian Institution have responded to the challenge of collecting objects that contain computer-based technology, will attempt to illustrate how curatorial expertise, through contemporary collecting, can respond with agility and creativity to unknown types of technology. In doing so, the critical role that twenty-first-century curators play within the museum will be examined, and how the museum both contributes to and is influenced by modern society’s understanding of these new technologies will be explored. What is emerging is a responsive and agile model of curatorship, one that has been honed by a long tradition of technology-related collection stewardship and that is fully prepared to answer the challenges posed by computer-based technology, revealing the museum as a trusted source for context and clarity in a rapidly evolving world.

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