Course Syllabus

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 Course Information

Performing the Digital Museum — Course Syllabus 

Description: Distance Learning


For centuries, libraries, archives, and museums from across Europe have been the custodians of our rich and diverse cultural heritage.  They have preserved and provided access to the testimonies of knowledge, beauty, and imagination, such as sculptures, paintings, music, and literature.  The new information technologies have created unbelievable opportunities to make this common heritage more accessible for all.  Culture is following the digital path and "memory institutions" are adapting the way in which they communicate with their public (New Renaissance Report, P.4).

The New Renaissance, Report of the Comité des Sages


Can the virtual museum be a stand alone or is it always a digital footprint of a physical museum?
The museum experience is characterized by its penchant for authenticity and originality in a space that typically casts itself the role of encapsulating science and culture for posterity. Digital artifacts, in contrast, signal endless clone-ability and a built-in temporality, where the very intangibility of the digital object inevitably becomes a provocation to the museum ethos of materiality and stability. 

At the same time a museum can be performed in many different ways, resonating with the ideas expressed by sociologist Erving Goffman in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life where he argues, perhaps in a Shakespearean way, that we present different aspects of ourselves in different situations as if we are actors (individuals) on stage and are performing in front of an audience.

This course will outline the numerous ways that information technologies, in spite of their built-in temporality, are located in the museum’s ecosystem and serve to augment, amplify, and disseminated the museum experience in numerous, propitious ways.  Performing the Museum in this way, serves propel collections, exhibitions and embedded knowledge into new spaces well beyond the museum wall; directly in the palm of your hand.

In principle, the work of art has always been reproducible. Objects made by humans could always be copied by humans. Replicas were made by pupils in practicing for their craft, by masters in disseminating their works, and, finally, by third parties in pursuit of profit. But the technological reproduction of artworks is something new (Benjamin, Walter 1936)


Professional, or personal interest in Museums and Museum culture and proficiency in online environments

Learning outcomes

    • Digital museum literacy
      Fluency in reading a variety of museum websites, portals and platforms - either online or mobile - as they replicate, in miniature the digital footprint of a physical museum or act as an online focus of museum quality artifacts and exhibitions.

    • An intellectual skill-set from which to think critically about digital museums
      Critical thinking describes an intellectual discipline that enables conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information in order to critically reflect on concepts and norms, here in the case of the digital museum. See The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking.
      For example: Can a digital museum be a stand-alone or is it always, a priori, a digital footprint of a physical museum? 

    • Online curatorial skill-set
      In this course theory and practice go hand-in-hand as students are required to curate an online exhibition using Pinterest. This entails gathering resources, producing images and texts, and presenting them as a coherent whole.  Students are expected to produce their own thematically rich and comprehensive online exhibition for their final assessment.


Benjamin Walter (1936). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In: Arendt Hannah, ed. Illustrations: Walter Benjamin – Essays and Reflections. New York: Schocken Books, 1985, pp. 217-251.
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (web version)
Weschler, L. (1995) Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology, New York: Vintage.

Augé, M. (1995) Non-places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, J. Howe (trans.), London: Verso.
Baudrillard, J. (2000) Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor: University Of Michigan Press.
Doering, Z. D. (1999a) Strangers, Guests or Clients? Visitor Experiences in Museums, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.
Hazan S. (2006) 'A crisis of authority: old lamps for new', in Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage, Ed. Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine, MIT Press
Lévy, P. (1998) Becoming Virtual, Reality in the Digital Age, New York and London: Plenum Trade.
Malraux, A.  (1967)  Le musée imaginaire, in Les voix du silence. Paris: Nouvelle Revue.
Turkle, S. (1995) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Witcomb, A. (2003) Re-Imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum, London: Routledge.

The Museums and the Web Bibliography comprises all papers published on MW conference websites or in annual selected proceedings. Entries can be filtered by year and are listed alphabetically by the primary author's name. Clicking a paper title shows details including an abstract and a live URL link if appropriate. Clicking an author's name lists all papers by that author. *You need to register and sign in.


The Association of Art Museum Directors, April 23, 2015
Next Practices in Digital and Technology

NMC Horizon Report March 2016 
2016 Museum Edition

Smithsonian Digitization Project, January 2015
Report: Museums Are Now Able to Digitize Thousands of Artifacts in Just Hours

The New Renaissance Report, 2011 of the Comité des Sages

 contactpoint2014.jpgPhoto (C) Barak Aaron

 Fall Course per week (Subject to change)

  1. August 30
    Introduction to the course and to Pinterest
    Download PowerPoint 1
  1. September 6
    Museums on the web | The distributed museum; authenticity, originality and clone-ability
    Download PowerPoint 2
  1. September 13
    Swiping and tapping | Museums on the smartphone; apps and more apps
    Download PowerPoint 3
  1. September 20
    Museum and Web 2.0 | The responsive museum
    Download PowerPoint 4
  1. September 27
    Social media – whose narrative is it anyway? | Case study: Visualizing Isaiah
    Download PowerPoint 5
  1. October 4
    Portals & aggregators | Cross-institutional collaboration
    Download Powerpoint 6
  1. October 11
    Serious gaming and the museum
    Reading - Treasure House
    Download Powerpoint Part I
    Download Powerpoint Part II
    View recorded lecture
  1. October 18
    Augmented reality | Pokémon in the museum
    Download Powerpoint
  1. October 25
    Student Pinterest projects | Discussion and proposals
  1. November 1
    3D visualization | Replacing, resizing and re-distributing - Download Catalog Template
    Download PowerPoint
  1. November 8
    3D printing | © implications for the museum
    Download PowerPoint
  1. November 15
    Makers & the Flipped Museum | The digital museum as an experiential, autonomous space
    Download PowerPoint
  1. November 22
    Digital Horizons | 1 year, 3 years, 5 years
    Download 2016 NMC Report
  1. November 29
    Curated projects | Student presentations I
  1. December 6
    Curated projects | Student presentations II
  1. December 13
    Curated projects | Student presentations III



Website evaluation report/critique
2-3 pages | Due Sep 20
15 Points

Exhibition proposal
Due Oct 4
(not graded but compulsory)

Mobile App evaluation/critique
2-3 pages | Due Oct 25
15 Points

Final assignment Thematic exhibition (Pinterest)
Due Dec 13
30 Points

Final assignment essay on thematic exhibition
12-15 pages | Due Dec 13
30 Points

Online participation
10 Points


The Extension School is committed to providing an accessible academic community. The Accessibility Office offers a variety of accommodations and services to students with documented disabilities. Please visit for more information.

Cheating and Plagiarism
You are responsible for understanding Harvard Extension School policies on academic integrity ( and how to use sources responsibly. Not knowing the rules, misunderstanding the rules, running out of time, submitting the wrong draft, or being overwhelmed with multiple demands are not acceptable excuses. There are no excuses for failure to uphold academic integrity. To support your learning about academic citation rules, please visit the Harvard Extension School Tips to Avoid Plagiarism (, where you'll find links to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources and two free online 15-minute tutorials to test your knowledge of academic citation policy. The tutorials are anonymous open-learning tools.

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