Web of difference: The changing presentation of East & West by museums online


Susan Chun, USA , Daisy Yiyou Wang, USA, Adriel Luis, USA, Shih-Chieh Ilya Li, Taiwan

Susan Chun interviews curators Daisy Wang from the Peabody Essex Museum and Adriel Luis from the Smithsonian's Asian Pacific American Center on how the Internet has changed the way we present "Others."

The Internet facilitates dialogues that were not previously possible. Online audiences have responded with unprecedented eagerness for new ideas and new cultural "inputs," driving what some have called "globalization." Arguably, the past 15 years have also produced the sense that there is less need to contextualize presentations of foreign cultures and artifacts, because there is the assumption that the Web will provide the necessary history and background for online visitors. At the same time, there has been a dramatic shift in the nature of authority and points of view because of the involvement of multiple voices and multicultural audiences in online conversations about museums and culture. Museums' shift away from an authoritative voice is paralleled – if not provoked – by a marked change in the way that originating cultures provide knowledge and frameworks for understanding their cultural products.

As museums redefine both their perceived and intended audiences, the refocus on audience needs and scope of the museum's mission online and in-gallery. This discussion tracks key moments in the transformation of museums by the Worldwide Web, and asks where museums on the web will go from here?

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