Books, Digital Text, and the On-line Museum

The museum, like the printed book, is a powerful form of information technology. Books as we have experienced them are the products of high-speed printing, which dominates publication practice at about the time that the modern museum comes into being. The two institutions have much in common: both represent the movement of patronage from the wealthy individual to the people (or the masses, or the public).

Book and museum exist in an odd, but intimate, relation: Printing of words and images, as Benjamin pointed out, produces objects (or simulacra) without the aura of the unique. In the world of multiples, the museum is the place for unique objects. But objects in museum require textualization by chat labels, brochures, catalogues, and monographs and . . . websites.

The example of the book in e-space provides an appropriate transition to museums in e-space because some of the material in on-line museums always comes from translating catalogues and books produced by museums and galleries into electronic form.

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