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From ‘view’ to ‘embed’ to ‘remix’ and ‘republish’: The future of heritage February 10, 2009

Posted by Heather Ford in Features.

At last week’s seminar, I presented the major trends that I feel the heritage sector is moving towards in a presentation entitled: ‘From ‘view’ to ‘embed’ to ‘remix’ and ‘republish’: The future of heritage’.

I started by explaining what ‘heritage’ actually is and why it is important by quoting from François LeBlanc’s essay entitled: ‘Is everything heritage?


Diagram by Francois LeBlanc

I then went on to discuss the history of heritage preservation. Starting by looking at ancient oral storytelling practices where there are no legal restrictions on who is allowed to pass on knowledge, I then addressed the first museums – ‘cabinets of curiosities‘ that were built by the elite classes in Renaissance Europe. I said that, although museums had become much more democratised in the twenty-first century, they are still largely inaccessible a) due to physical limitations of the world’s most important museums only being available to people in major cities, and b) due to legacy copyright restrictions in place that prevent the original ‘passing on’ of knowledge that we benefited from in ancient times.

The result of these limitations is that many museums are out of touch with modern day society. What was built by modern society to preserve our heritage for future generations has, effectively, become another tool for ‘telling’ us a particular view of history (or ‘showing us’ their particular selection of ‘curiosities), rather than enabling us to ‘pass on’ what we feel is important.

I then talked about the problems of the ever-widening scope of copyright as a primary source of the inability of museums to become platforms for sharing or ‘passing on’ heritage from one individual to the next. As copyright has widened in scope and term over the past century, its restrictions have come to cover even our heritage and memories. With copyright limitations being default, and not requiring registration, museums are saddled with the problem of finding copyright owners of donated materials in order to get their permission for publication and sharing of the materials outside of the walls of the museum.

In response to the problems of over-zealous copyright protection, a number of tools have been developed to assist organisations in fulfilling their primary function by making materials accessible to a wider audience using the democratising power of the Internet. Creative Commons, for example, has developed a set of copyright licenses that allow the copyright-holder to mark the freedoms associated with a work by default. A license like this enables museums to develop model agreements with those who donate to the archive which then allow (commercial or non-commercial) sharing of the works (or images of the works) online.

Other museums have made use of public domain provisions by keeping records of materials that have fallen out of copyright and can then be made accessible to a wider audience who are free to pass on the information to others. Fair dealing provisions have also been used by some museums to make certain works available for educational, non-commercial use.

In all these examples, I tried to make it clear that the most important function of museums in going online is that they preserve the ‘passing on’ function of early storytelling by clearing rights as far as possible to enable a new generation of online creators to be able to republish the materials and therefore pass them on to a whole set of new audiences.

>> Video of the presentation is available on the Internet Archive.


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[…] Ford kicked off the event by discussing how perceptions of heritage and access to that heritage has changed over time – from the storytellers who sat around camp fires telling […]

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Hi there
Your opinion on From ‘view’ to ‘embed’ to ‘remix’ and ‘republish’:
The future of heritage | iHeritage is informative and well considered.

I will definitely come back in order to read through new article content.

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