Keynote: Proposing the modes of digital value for a memory institution

Proposing the modes of digital value for a memory institution

Keynote delivered to the Museums and Digital Memory: from creation and curation to digital preservation - a British Museum conference:
Monday 3rd September 2018 #MADM2018


I conceive of museums as ‘memory institutions’ as they assume a common aspiration in preserving, organizing and making available the cultural and intellectual records of their societies. Within this context the way they value their work and activity is a critical conception, especially in fast moving digital times. Value is individually understood and attributed but collectively shared and thus magnified. The word ‘value’ describes an idea about economics, an idea about personal expression and an idea about morality. Often these may be seen as in tension with each other. As the anthropologist Daniel Miller stresses value when expressed as ‘prices’ is directly opposed to value understood as ‘values’.

In a heritage context tangible value is often associated with artefacts, historic sites or places that are considered by organizations like UNESCO or ICOMOS as ‘inherently and intrinsically of value’. Intangible value is considered to be something that cannot be touched (such as education or social memory) or has a large information component and has greater fluidity, possibly changing in value over time and between different groups (such as beliefs, interests or symbolic associations). Intangible value is essential to appreciate for both memory institutions and digital resources - they rely on intangible values such as knowledge, social memory, education, brand or goodwill.

In my paper I argue for defining modes of value for digital culture in museums not solely driven by economics but which contain indicators of other more intangible values, even including non-use.

These 5 Value Lenses focus attention reflecting core values measured for their impact. The 5 Value Lenses are:

  • Utility Value
  • Existence and/or Prestige Value
  • Education Value
  • Community Value
  • Inheritance / Legacy Value


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