Hacking heritage

Understanding the limits of online access

Authored by: Tim Sherratt

The Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138581296
eBook ISBN: 9780429506765
Adobe ISBN:


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In 1995, an Australian government plan for digital innovation highlighted some exciting possibilities that lay ahead for the cultural sector (Department of Industry, Science and Tourism, 1995). Access to collections would be ‘simplified’ through the creation of an ‘Electronic Smithsonian’—a portal to bring together the holdings of national cultural institutions:

For the user this home page access will be like walking electronically down an avenue of all our major museums or galleries. People will be able to find out about the collections, their significance and context, and use interactive links to other institutions, as well as to access digitalised images.

Two decades later, the United Kingdom (UK) government’s Culture White Paper (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016) envisaged a similar pathway for users, while seeking to make the UK ‘one of the world’s leading countries for digitised public collections content’: ‘We want users to enjoy a seamless experience online, and have the chance to access particular collections in depth as well as search across all collections.’

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