Beyond the building: Creating and supporting communities based on place.

Rebecca Hawcroft, University of Canberra, Australia

Published paper: Beyond the building: Creating and supporting communities based on place

How can we recognise place as it functions in the digital space, and what does it mean for museum engagement? The digital sector has seen an explosion in locational technology, mapping applications, and social-media platforms capturing and sharing interactions with places. Attachment to place has been explored in sociology and cultural studies for decades and is recognised as a key part of identity creation. As digital communities based on place connections emerge across the Web, what is the place of the museum within these conversations?

This paper finds that place plays a key part in individual and community identity within digital culture. What place does the museum occupy within this context? Due to transient and amorphous digital communities, competing with the task of identifying and connecting to an audience is increasingly challenging. The strengthening of place attachment can be seen as a key strategy in supporting the collective identity of a visiting community. Equally, with social-media programs and digitised collections, museums are able to create and connect to multiple communities in dispersed locations.

Place remains a potent force for museum engagement as well, as a number of recent initiatives that position the museum at the centre of a place-based community demonstrate. With a focus on digitised collections, the paper also identifies the potential to make multiple and dispersed connections based on place. The inclusion of location in collection management approaches, walks, storytelling, and memory projects, are identified as mechanisms that link place connections back to the museum.

I am a PhD candidate in my first year. My area of study is place engagement within the context of museums and digitised collections. The following is a selection of sources utilised in my literature review, which will directly inform the proposed paper:

Digital culture and collections management:
Castells, M 1996, The Rise of the Network Society
Gordon and de Souza, 2011, Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World, Wiley Blackwell.
Smith Bautista, S 2014, Museums in the Digital Age, Altamira
Cameron, F 2003, ‘Digital Futures’, in Curator, vol46/3
Kenderdine, S 2010, Immersive Technologies
NMC Horizon Report, 2013 Museum Edition (
Overholt, 2013, Five Theses on the Future of Special Collections, RMB: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Cultural Heritage.
Sanderhof, M, (ed) 2014, Sharing is Caring, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
Whitelaw, M 2014, Representing Digital Collections
Whitelaw, M 2014, Towards Generous Interfaces for Archival Collections.

Place/Space and engagement:
Auge, M 2008, Non-places: An Introduction to Supermodernity
Berman, M 1981, Reenchantment of the World
DeCerteau, M 1998, The Practice of Everyday Life
Giaccardi, E, Erik Champion and Yehuda Klay, (eds) 2008, International Journal of Heritage Studies, special issue on Place and New Media April 2008 (14:3).
Halbwachs, M 1992, On Collective Memory
Relph, E 1986, Place and Placelessness.
Stewart, S 2003, On Longing
Yates, F 1966, The Art of Memory
Yi Fu Twan, Space and Place

Creating community:
Archibald, R 2004, The New Town Square: Museums and Communities in Transition, AltaMira Press.
Cairns, S 2013, ‘Mutualizing Museums Knowledge: Folksonomies and the Changing Shape of Expertise’, in Curator: The Museum Journal, 56(1), pp.107–119.
Golding and Modest (eds), 2013, Museums and Communities, Bloomsbury Academic.
Giaccardi, 2012, Heritage and Social Media: Understanding Heritage in a Participatory Culture.
Owens, 2013. ‘Digital Cultural Heritage and the Crowd’, in Curator: The Museum Journal, 56(1), pp.121–130.
Mia Ridge (
Russo and Watkins, 2013, ‘Digital Cultural Communication: Audience and Remediation’, in F. Cameron and S. Kenderdine (eds), Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage, MIT Press.
Uricchio, W 2011, ‘The algorithmic turn: photosynth, augmented reality and the changing implications of the image’, in Visual Studies, 26:1, 25-35