Plenary lecture 1

Life on the Outside: Collections, Contexts, and the Wild, Wild Web

  • Tim Sherratt (National Library of Australia / University of Canberra)

More and more cultural collections are being released online. Such acts of liberation open collections to discovery and reuse, but carry the risk that something integral to their interpretation, understanding and authenticity might be lost. Context, it seems, can be fickle and fragile.

But are our collections more robust than we think? This paper will explore some of the new lives and meanings they can find in the wilds of the web. Contexts can be created and enriched. New ways of seeing can emerge, bringing both understanding and unease. Many small, capricious, joyous, angry acts of meaning-making can challenge ideas of authority and privilege inherent in fixed conceptions of context. Things can change.

Life on the outside isn't always pleasant or predictable, but by letting our collections run free we allow them to grow. And we challenge ourselves to think differently about the nature of collections themselves.