Edited by Ruth Towse and Christian Handke
Chapter 29: Museums
Museums started exploring the use of computers in the 1960s, and by the 1990s many museums were in the process of adopting an automated work form to manage collections. By the 2000s the Internet had brought new distribution channels, and digitization became harder to avoid. During the last decade, there has been a revision in the work process, where information becomes a key asset and where the relation between the museum and its public changes to favor participatory services. Many of the issues concerning the museum work (acquisition, preservation, exhibition, research and communication) have been thoroughly studied by cultural economists, and their insights can be applied to the digital equivalent, for instance to identify the effective use of resources for an increase in access (offline or online). There are, however, characteristic differences in the production, distribution and consumption processes as a result of digitization. These have not always been discussed. This chapter reviews the economic literature on museums to focus on the areas relevant to digitization, applying existing theory in areas where no literature example can be found. Issues of intellectual property rights (and copyright) as a form of regulation are outside the scope of this chapter. In cultural economics, museums can be studied from three main perspectives: the museum institution (the ëfirmí with inputs and outputs), the consumer of museum goods and the role of the government in supporting production of museum goods.
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