As a grad student interested in how museums make their exhibits palatable to diverse publics, I’d like to put together a session on public history and digital access. Some of you might be familiar with the Smithsonian’s planned American Enterprise exhibition, which will solicit ideas for content on its blog: americanenterprise.si.edu/
I’m curious about some of the implications of this venture. In his book Consuming History, Jerome de Groot seems to suggest that technology (broadly defined) will improve access to public history (also broadly defined)–even to the point of “democratizing” public history. The Smithsonian’s approach certainly marks a shift away from older forms of exhibit construction, but what are the implications for curating, displaying, and experiencing exhibits and other forms of public history?
Perhaps using this cases as a starting point, I’d like to propose a session that examines what digital access and democratization mean in the context of public history. Are these approaches significant departures from old ways of thinking about public history, or are there continuities and complications? I’d like to cast a pretty wide net here–I can certainly see these questions being applicable to archives and libraries, as well.