What Remains: The Enduring Value of Museum Collections in the Digital Age

  • 1 Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation,

Abstract

Why do collections continually surprise? The simple answer for students and researchers is that collections of historic objects contain abundant information not well represented in texts or on the internet. Collections in museums, libraries, campuses and private hands offer a unique source of diversity for research, teaching and broader cultural offerings. In this paper, I look at the wealth of findings resulting from the careful study of objects, collections and provenance. I provide examples from our national science museums in Ottawa, as well as collecting activities throughout Canada. I will also describe recent research in German science collections. The close study of objects has a capacity to reveal multiple narratives and unexpected human dimensions of the past, while also connecting us to complex human relations with what remains in the present. I reflect on how collection keepers and museums can better harness the possibilities stemming from these kinds of approaches.

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