Creating new connections: Objects, people, and digital data at the Musée du quai Branly
This article presents the new cultural heritage regime of the Musée du quai Branly’s collection through an analysis of the digitization of records for objects and documentary data. Non-European collections, notably those at the Musée de l’Homme, have been reconfigured within the new institution. The ‘ethnographic’ artifact, which was once a scientific object, has become a ‘work of art and civilization’ a heritage object registered at the Service des Musées de France. Documentary data, which used to be recorded on paper, was entered into a new classification system: the TMS objects database, here conceived as a social space and a space of knowledge shared by different actors. A study of the informational infrastructure shows how connections are created between humans, objects, and digital data. Analysis of this reconfiguration leads to an examination of the materiality of the digital environment. Classifications depend on material storage systems. Manipulating digital data allows for new working methods in creating an inventory, in particular new associations among data offering new possibilities for bringing together isolated objects and collections in unique ways.
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