Digitisation is a hot topic at the moment (OK, I’ll qualify – it’s a hot topic in the world of collections and collectors). By 2008 the number of devices connected to the internet outnumbered the human population. We love to be online and digitisation can only enhance this.
Digitisation (the scanning or photographing of physical items into a digital form) is a great way of recording the object’s condition at that point in time, sharing information, showing and protecting objects which are too rare or fragile to be on show, making collections accessible, using them in new ways, supporting new methods of research, allowing new audiences to interpret content, and generating income from image sales.
So what’s the problem?
The main problem (after ‘what to digitise’ – I mean, who wants to pay for and manage a second, virtual collection because – unthinkingly – they digitised everything?) is that it’s very tempting for companies, particularly those with limited space, to think ‘Let’s digitise it and chuck out the originals!’. Seeing as we’re talking tech, I’ll use an emoji: It’s very hard not to run away screaming when a client says this.
I have only one answer to the person who asks ‘Do you think we should keep our collection after we’ve digitised it?’ and that is yes. If you are considering the digitisation-and-bin method, ask yourself why anyone ever visits museums and galleries. Do they go to look at copies or at the real thing? Would you be happy if our great national museums and galleries took photos of everything inside, threw out the originals, shut up shop and said ‘yeah, but you can see them online now, and we don’t have to pay for a museum any more’? Do people value cut glass rings or diamond rings? Real pearls or fake? Genuine artwork or prints? Tutankhamun’s death mask or a postcard of it? I hope you see where I’m going here?
Your company heritage is your own unique record of your company’s history, people, working conditions, processes, developments and successes. It is tangible, physical, real, genuine. It can be held, seen from three sides, displayed this way and that, passed round, shown off; it has an associated feel and smell which a scan or photograph does not. The past becomes the present when you’re in a space filled with that past, feeling the hands of time, people and place wrapping around you and pulling you in – this cannot happen when you’re on a computer looking at single objects one by one.
Don’t go down in company memory as ‘the one who threw out the collections’. Be remembered as the one who did something with them.
Faith Carpenter curates for The Company Curator, working across Berkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. We can help you to tell your story to your customers and clients.