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e-flux journal: "Is the Museum a Database?"


Floorplan of a server farm

In the December issue of e-flux journal, Mike Pepi presents an urgent critique of the digitalization of museum archives. With this development, museums are increasingly taking the form of databases:

The museum is pressured into adapting to the logic of the database from all sides. Increasingly we access it, and its contents, by executing a query. At this juncture we begin to entertain questions of absurd technological determinism. For example: Is a museum a database? While this may be a ridiculous provocation on its face, we have seen that anxious cultural institutions are among the first to uncritically adopt the metabolism of database, to transform the institution into an indexed site of transmission. Though to many it appears somewhat emancipated from its traditional critiques—the notion of transparency, democracy, and access have been loosely ascribed to the newly digitized institution. Yet beneath the surface the museum has become contingent on a metabolism that is eager to mimic the logic of the database, the engine feeding the scalability required by the private digital enterprise.

Read the full essay here.