Technology and Culture

azaleas2I have long been interested in how digital technologies can improve understanding of and access to our shared culture, from the development of computer simulations for the teaching of history to the creation of information systems for digital cultural heritage resources. My research in this area looks at the intersection of technology and culture in our schools, in our professions, and in our everyday lives.

Digital Scholarship
New forms of scholarship have dramatically changed the way researchers and professionals communicate and share information with each other and their users. As we move forward in our exploration of how digital scholarship will transform research and practice in the arts, sciences, and humanities, it is critical that we improve our understanding of how information professionals use the tools and technologies of digital scholarship to build community and meet information needs. To explore these issues, I conducted a long-term study where I examined the ability of online communities to promote professional development among museum information professionals, exploring how museum professionals build community in professional organizations [1], and how information technology professionals in museums share expertise within online communities [2]. I also conducted an evaluation and long range plan for the Florida Memory Project, an educational and historical resource developed by the State Library and Archives of Florida, determining the products, technologies, and services that best met their long term needs, and offering recommendations for a range of strategic issues [3].

Digital Convergence of Libraries, Archives, and Museums
There is an important role for information professionals who can transcend the traditional boundaries between libraries, archives, and museums to meet user needs in the information age. To examine the shared challenges facing libraries, archives, and museums in the information age, and the overlapping educational goals of library and information science, archival studies, and museum studies programs, I guest-edited special issues of three different journals exploring how the increased use of and reliance on digital resources has blurred traditional distinctions between information organizations, leading to a digital convergence of libraries, archives, and museums in the information age [4, 5, 6]. I also coordinated a national workshop on “Exploring the Intersection of LIS, Museum Studies, and Archives Studies Education for Encouraging the Development of 21st Century Cultural Heritage Information Professionals”, exploring the relationships among information professionals in libraries, archives, and museums, and the role of educational institutions in preparing professionals who can transcend boundaries between these organizations [7].

Digital Museum in the Life of the User
As museums provide increased online access to their collections and other information resources, it is important to study why people visit museum websites before going to museums and how museum websites influence decisions to visit museums. My interest in this area stems from my work researching the “digital museum in the life of the user,” examining how museum visitors incorporate digital museum resources into their daily lives. This research has explored such questions as how museum professionals can help users integrate digital museum resources into the sociocultural fabric of their everyday lives [8], and how increased access to digital information resources affects the ability of the information professional working in the museum to meet the needs of museum visitors [9]. I have also researched the development and use of personal digital collections interfaces on museum websites [10], where online visitors are encouraged to build their own personal collections of the museum’s online artifacts, assessing the potential impact of these interfaces on the relationship between museums and their online visitors [11].