Anxiety and Cultural Heritage

Elings and Waibel point out what appears to be an underlying force in the field of Cultural Heritage Access and Description. In our reading “Metadata for All: Descriptive Standards and Metadata Sharing across Libraries, Archives, and Museums,” they write: “Across the cultural heritage community, the debate about how to exploit the network so users find our content in the spaces they already frequent, and how to engage them once they have discovered what we offer, remains crucial to the continued relevance of libraries, archives, and museums.” LAMs are struggling to remain relevant and the digital platform is a tool readily available which they seek to use to secure user interest. Indeed, the work of LAMs has been very much like commercial marketing. I am interested in the relationship between this anxiety over remaining relevant—in essence, surviving—and the world of “the [digital] network.” Were LAMS so concerned about gaining user interest in their collections when their websites or digital archives/libraries were nonexistent? Or is this anxiety simply rooted in the contemporary requirement of having a digital/internet presence? Has the great promise in the possibility of widespread access and interoperability between the databases of cultural institutions simply put the problems and concerns that LAMs have always had into the spotlight, or has it created a new fear of irrelevance that now seems to be the main focus of these institutions?

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