The shared interests between libraries, archives and museums (LAMs) is an important line of work for OCLC Research.

However, a related issue is also of considerable interest for libraries. As we move into a digital environment, library work increasingly needs to understand and benefit from archival and museum perspectives.

As libraries digitize primary materials, or as they begin to curate research data or learning materials, an archival perspective becomes more important. Provenance and context are of interest, and changes to resources over time need to be tracked and managed. The value of resources as evidence becomes central.

As libraries provide access to abundant digital materials, how to selectively present them or to construct narratives around them becomes more critical. The notion of exhibition comes into play, a central museum activity.

Comments: 3

Apr 10, 2010
Gary Frost

"As we move into a digital environment, library work increasingly needs to understand and benefit from archival and museum perspectives."

This same logic applies to the interdependence of physical archives and their screen simulations. As a template, I suggest, that physical collections have an authentication role while screen simulation of the same items enriches search and discovery. This is an on-going interaction not a one-way digital transition.

The authentication role is not as apparent when the focus is on outright paper to screen transition. However, the physical original will sustain continued forensic and bibliographic investigation. Another attribute of this capacity is the overt nature of physical evidence; the feature is either present or not present. Screen representation of documents cannot fulfill this role, even with more elaborate description.


In various sectors, from credit finance to elections to automotive controls, we have noticed a subtle and then devastating influence of loss of trust in products that transition from physical to electronic delivery. Libraries, archives and museums should be attentive to such outcomes.

As we move forward with certification of repositories, collections and items as accessed on the screen, we should also be alert for the efficient and economic roles that source physical collections can play in exactly that certification.

Apr 12, 2010
Dennis Moser

One hopes that the educational institutions responsible for training the LACs (Librarians, Archivists, and Curators) for said LAMs are paying attention to this situation and adjusting curriculum. Had I not deliberately sought out coursework in all three areas, I would feel even less prepared today.

Apr 12, 2010
Jeff Trzeciak

I have always believed that libraries and museums can learn much from each other. In my simplified view of both I would say libraries have been mainly about "content". We are big buildings packed with stuff...you supply the context.

Museums, on the other hand, are more about context. Sure, they have lots of stuff but most of it is stored. They put a few things out put put them in context.

Digital library initiatives give libraries the opportunity to contextualize our content and, in doing so, add value beyond "just" stewardship.

I also think that digital initiatives can be strengthened by understanding instructional design. It's important for us to understand who our audience is and what we hope they learn from the experience. A basic understanding of instructional design will help us to develop our digital initiatives as real learning tools.

When I was at Wayne State University we had a number of digital initiatives that blended libraries, archives and museums. One of them, "Digital Dress", involved historic garments. The database was designed as a learning tool so the images of historic clothing featured internal elements (whale boning, stitching and tags) as well as external design elements (buttons, etc). We designed it this way so that it could be used as an instructional tool, not just as a series of pretty pictures. Understanding the instructional design process helped us develop a stronger resource.

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