Via Museumatic, here’s a fascinating report on barriers to universal access to digital collections.  The paper, “Digital Assets and Digital Burdens:  Obstacles to the Dream of Universal Access,” by Nicholas Crofts, presented at CIDOC last month, argues that museums and other cultural institutions need to examine our assumptions about the technology available, about what kinds of records are appropriate for dissemination, and about museums’ willingness  to make digital material freely available.  He concludes by noting that if museums do not commit to providing free access to their digital materials, we may lose our role as provider of content.   (See, for instance, public.resource)

What the foregoing examples seem to suggest is that museums and other cultural heritage institutions may be caught in a Catch 22 situation with respect to universal access to cultural heritage. While making cultural material freely available is part of their mission, and therefore a goal that they are obliged to support, it may still come into conflict with other factors, notably commercial interests: the need to maintain a high-profile and to protect an effective brand image. If museums are to cooperate successfully and make digital resources widely available on collaborative platforms, they will either need to find ways of avoiding institutional anonymity, or agree to put aside their institutional identity to one side. While cultural institutions are wrangling with these problems, other organisations and individuals are actively engaged in producing attractive digital content and making it widely available. Universal access to cultural heritage will likely soon become a reality, but museums may be losing their role as key players. [emphasis mine]

In honor of this report, and my recent interest in continued museum survival past 2019, I’m adding a new tag:  shareordie.