Library, Archive, and Museum Convergence

There is a lot of discussion these days about the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums.The Center for the Future of Museums had a recent guest post on this topic, also introducing the IMLS-funded wiki on the same theme. The University of Calgary has actually merged its libraries and museums into what they are calling their Library and Cultural Resources, which also interestingly contains their university press.

This is all inevitable, I think, but it is really important to realize that this is not a convergence, but a re-convergence. If you look back far enough there was no difference between libraries and museums… or publishers for that matter. These were spaces for scholarship, regardless of the objects they held. And they were usually run by philosophers who spent much of their time assembling new editions and collected works (i.e., publishing).

It is easy to get caught in the newness of all of this and the result is that people get lost in the details (eg., what would an integrated search of library and museum catalogues look like?), or in why the convergence is happening now. Perhaps there is some value in looking at why these institutions separated in the first place? And the most important thing is to figure out what these institutions are converging around. (Hint: it isn’t technology, or services, or metadata, or economic sustainability, or even physical spaces…it is the thing that all of these elements purport to serve.)

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