Keeler Notes: Breaking through museum walls — digitizing collections

In January, the Google Arts & Culture smartphone app launched a popular new feature, “Is your portrait in a museum?” that matches a selfie to portraits in museums around the world. This feature is possible only because museums around the world have been digitizing their collections.

Digital collections has been the buzzword of the museum industry for the past several years. Technological advances have made it feasible to scan, photograph or even print 3D models of museum collections.

Digitization does more than allow people to find their fine art doppelgängers. It is, primarily, a way for museums to preserve their collections. By using digital copies, researchers can study documents or objects without compromising fragile originals with constant handling.

Beyond preservation, digitization allows collections to “break through museum walls.” With online exhibitions, visitors no longer need to travel to a museum to explore its collection — they don’t even need to leave the house.

Museums also can use their digital collections to encourage people to engage with their own cultural heritage by crowdsourcing information and research. The Smithsonian Institution, for example, has “digital volunteers” working on transcribing thousands of pages of documents, handwritten letters and journals, from its collection.

Through funds raised on March 1’s Giving Day, a 24-hour online fund-raising drive, KTHC is looking to purchase the tools to digitize its own collections, including a high-quality flatbed scanner and a digital camera. More information on KTHC’s digitization efforts and how to support us on Giving Day may be found at Giving Day is powered by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and Bank of America.