New Book by Ana-Maria Herman: Reconfiguring the Museum: The Politics of Digital Display

Digital media technologies have provided an occasion not only for novel ways to display and exhibit collections, but also for new politics to arise as museums and urban settings change. While some believe these changes are driven by humans, others see digital media technologies at the heart of these changes. Reconfiguring the Museum offers a third explanation that considers both the social and technical together and thereby captures the experimental nature of introducing novel digital media technologies to museums, and the uncertainty, messiness, contingency, and complexity involved. In this sociotechnical case study of a novel augmented reality app – first designed to exhibit collections from the Museum of London across the sprawling capital city, and later remade for the McCord Museum to display collections throughout Montreal – Ana-Maria Herman reveals how the app introduced unexpected new relations between the museums, their collections, advertising agencies, sponsors, technology companies, corporations, urban spaces, and end users. She shows how museum practices related to curating, designing, building, visiting, and modifying exhibitions were transformed, and how, in such unsettled arrangements, what we think of as old cultural politics can unexpectedly re-emerge, while new digital politics – related to big data, surveillance, and automated processes – may not necessarily materialize.

A detailed account of emerging actors and practices involved in making digital exhibitions, Reconfiguring the Museum offers practical considerations for museum, culture, and heritage practitioners charged with creating digital displays and accounting for their success or failure. Ana-Maria Herman is senior lecturer of media and communication at Swansea University.

“Herman convincingly illuminates in great detail all sorts of juxtapositions, interests, surprises, and uncertainties in museum organization related to digitization. A compelling case study and an enjoyable read.” Martin Hand, Queen’s University