MCN Recap 2014: Open Authority/ Shared Access

Open-authority, shared-authority, open-access, shared-access was another theme that seeped through many of the conversations at #MCN2014. People all over are now finding/ demanding transparency of organizations and even governments. If ISIS has annual reports about their reports, then shouldn’t museums? But, in what ways can museums open up access while at the same time maintaining their core competency, collections interpreted in reputable ways.

Yet, what is the term for allowing other others into our community of practice? In my mind, open access is the most reasonable term. Sharing is hard; my daughters, and their dolls, can attest to that. Sharing has the baggage of loss associated with it, mostly loss of power. The fear for many museums is that shared production of content would result in a devaluation of the core brand. Yet, many of our collections could actually profit from citizen interpreters. Think of how you might remember an amazing story about the museum coin fountain in your childhood museum, like when your friend waited until the guard’s back was turned to stand upon in. Or, more seriously, if objects of your faith are housed within a museum collection, your perspective might truly transform the way that the institution understands that collection.

Open access is a term that implies transparency, which in its own way might feel frighteningly honest. But, openness doesn’t mean losing ground or power. From the point of an institution, open access might be the least frightening. It is about bringing your arcane knowledge into the open, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose all your power. You are offering something but not everything.

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