Museum Informatics

azaleasMy academic work centers on the study of museum informatics, which explores the sociotechnical interactions that take place between people, information, and technology in museums [1]. Over the past couple decades, I have worked to establish museum informatics as an interdisciplinary field of study relevant to researchers and professionals, scholars and students across multiple academic disciplines [2].

Invisible Work in Museums
Information professionals working in museums today face a stark paradox: the easier they make it for people to access their museum’s information resources, the harder they make it for those same people to understand how much work is actually involved in making those resources available [3]. My research in this area is exploring how museum information professionals can make their own contributions clear, while simultaneously making more resources available to an audience that wants increasingly unlimited access to everything, with as few barriers as possible, and all of it for free [4]. The best way to make information work in museums visible is to develop connections with museum visitors that align with those of museum professionals, thereby involving everyone in the co-curation process as consumers and producers of museum information resources. By leveraging the ways in which visitors use collections information resources outside the museum, we can find new ways to make information work inside the museum more visible [5].

The Evolving Roles of Information Professionals in Museums
As museum professionals and visitors become more information-savvy, and their information needs and expectations become more complex, the role of information professionals working in museums has changed dramatically [6]. These changes have raised many interesting questions about the need for and importance of information professionals in museums, and highlighted the role of LIS programs in educating the next generation of museum information professionals [7]. My research into the evolving roles of information professionals in museums focuses on the place of the museum in the information society, as well as the information resources, tools, and technologies that museum information professionals use on the job. My work has explored the relationship between LIS education and museum information work [8], and examined the integration of museum informatics into the LIS curriculum [9]. This research is designed to guide LIS programs as they help students acquire the knowledge needed to work across all types of cultural heritage organizations, including libraries, archives, and museums.

Sociotechnical Systems and Collaborative Work in Museums
The sociotechnical implications of introducing new information technologies into the museum environment and their effect on collaborative work processes have serious consequences for cultural heritage organizations, including libraries, archives, and museums. As new information systems are developed to support current practices, it is important to study the evolution of these systems as they shape and are shaped by social structures already in place. I am particularly interested in the organizational and cultural activities that define collaborative work in libraries, archives, and museums; the work practices that cut across these organizational boundaries in the daily work of information professionals; and the sociotechnical systems that enable collaboration among librarians, archivists, and museum professionals. My work in this area is influenced by my prior research studying the evolution of sociotechnical systems in museums, particularly at the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois [10, 11].