What is New Scholarship?


Both the process and shape of scholarship are changing. Nontraditional forms are emerging that call for new ways of evaluating and disseminating work. Increasingly, scholars are beginning to employ methods unavailable to their counterparts of several years ago, including prepublication releases of their work, distribution through nontraditional channels, dynamic visualization of data and results, and new ways to conduct peer reviews using online collaboration. These new approaches present a new challenge: to protect the integrity of scholarly activity while taking advantage of the opportunity for increased creativity and collaboration. New forms of scholarship, including fresh models of publication and nontraditional scholarly products, are evolving along with the changing process. Some of these forms are very common — blogs and video clips, for instance — but academia has been slow to recognize and accept them. Some scholars worry that blogging may cut into time that would otherwise be used for scholarly research or writing, for example, or that material in a podcast is not as well researched as material prepared for print publication. Proponents of these new forms argue that they serve a different purpose than traditional writing and research — a purpose that improves, rather than runs counter to, other kinds of scholarly work. Blogging scholars report that the forum for airing ideas and receiving comments from their colleagues helps them to hone their thinking and explore avenues they might otherwise have overlooked.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?


  • My brief discussion here is going to deal narrowly with content providers at collection institutions. Museums have what might be termed inside scholars and outside scholars. Inside scholars are the professionals who are currently active in the field. The bulk of these scholars have followed a traditional academic route into the curatorial/education profession and many are still resistant to the ideas of new scholarship because many of the forms taken by new scholarship are not yet recognized by their peers in academia as valid publications (this is often due to a lack of a formal structure of peer review). Museum professionals are being forced into adopting new scholarship due to the competition offered by outside scholars. Museums fear, more than anything, the loss of cultural authority over their collections and so, despite the resistance of a graying curatorial community, museums are looking at any opportunities to communicate information and increase their relevance as content providers, particularly if new scholarship comes at a cheaper price than traditional publications. - holly holly May 1, 2010
  • I also believe that scholars from within the institution would like technology tools to allow them to share these new ideas in scholarship, but they don't feel comfortable using social networking tools. We have a few curators blogging now, but the blog doesn't reach their intended audience. When it comes to collections, the current technology, online databases, do very little to expose the current trends in curatorial scholarship and invite dialogue. These models do not work. We need a model specifically for art scholarship (I work at an art museum, so I am thinking specifically of art collection based scholarship) that allows curators to show that their process is on-going, that they are not the authority, and allow visitors to add to the scholarship and harness online technologies to make the scholarship their own.- christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 2, 2010
  • Considering the reduction in resources for traditional print publishing in general, the promotion and use of new tools and methodologies for creating and disseminating new scholarship will be relevant to all museums. Raising awareness of the power of these tools and of the potential of creative collaborations, as well as training on tools and access to successful products will be an important step in encouraging nontraditional process and products. Thinking back to the early days of museum websites, we had to work hard to convince the curators that a web feature about their exhibition would reach a very wide audience and would be a valuable addition to the scholarly printed catalogue. When resources became tight, and it was not a given that a printed catalogue would be produced, some curators began initiating ideas for the museum website in order to “publish” their research – recognizing the power of the web. - phyllis.hecht phyllis.hecht May 2, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • How might museums and academic institutions work together to come up with standards for new scholarship? Inside scholars will be more likely to pursue new avenues of scholarship if they feel like their work will be recognized in the same way as it is recognized in traditional publishing mechanisms. - holly holly May 1, 2010 This is a great question - ninmah ninmah May 5, 2010
  • I agree with Holly. Also the technologies available right now do not seem adaptable to academic publishing for museums. What we have is very antiquated and new technologies don't seem accessible or adaptable. Unless we start thinking about some combo of a wiki and ereader....- christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 2, 2010
  • I think the theme of enlisting participation of “citizen scientists” and amateur researchers is also an element of new scholarship. One example is the online collection catalogue of Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia of the Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Galleries. Here, a fairly traditional art museum invites its audiences to contribute their insights to its online catalogue. Per their website, “The sections called Field Notes invite input from readers around the world at all levels of catalogue content, from individual objects to the general discussion of the catalogue as a whole and the field it represents. These attributed comments appear alongside the texts to which they apply. Where appropriate, comments will be incorporated into the permanent object records.” http://seasianceramics.asia.si.edu/index.asp - phyllis.hecht phyllis.hecht May 2, 2010
  • For museums with active research agendas, this topic intersects with wikis--the encyclopedia of life eol.org is an example in which museum scientists act as curator (approving web pages) for wiki species pages. This represents a significant investment of time, and a discussion continues about ways to recognize this community contribution as a qualification for tenure, and/or as a form of publishing.- elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • I think every one wins in this scenario if we can just figure out how to do it right- holly holly May 1, 2010
  • Here, here. But we have a long way to go to meet in the middle, between what curators want to share with the public and what the public wants to know about our collections. Holly, on museumatic last year (or so) you wrote a post encouraging everyone to encourage young curators, because they will be the ones to create new models in scholarship. Since I am working on a scholarly project with a young curator, I see proof of your point. He embraces technology, but his point of view, while interesting, fresh, and a bit unorthedox, is also very academic and esoteric. I know there is value for this scholarship but how to get it out there in a way that matters, to the people that matters.- christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 2, 2010
  • Possibly closer collaborations between curators and educators; offer access to museum scholarship to a wider, more diverse audience - phyllis.hecht phyllis.hecht May 2, 2010
  • Measuring relevancy based on copy-and-paste actions by our users. I don't think we can always assume that just because users are copying and pasting information about our collections, that action translates into active engagement. But I am fascinated about the idea that embedding signature codes into the pasted data could eventually end up as a benchmark of how often a work is getting viewed online. http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/07/measuring-reader-engagement-by-how-often-they-copy-and-paste/ - rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010rosanna.flouty- rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_journals/technical_research_bulletin/trb_volume_2.aspx- holly holly May 1, 2010
  • http://www.getty.edu/foundation/funding/access/current/online_cataloging.html Getty funded project which SAM is a part of, and I am on the project team. - christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 2, 2010
  • I think that a recent project of the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) would fit into this category, even though one product of it will be a traditional print publication. The project involved: an online symposium, open only to selected panelists; followed by a public blog (http://vcande.blogspot.com/); which will be followed by the publication of the proceedings in print and online. The 2-week online symposium, on the topic of Visual Culture and Evolution, brought together approx. 40 international cross-disciplinary panelists from academia and museum practice to examine evolution from a cultural, philosophical, and scientific standpoint in a private online discussion space, moderated by the director of programs at NAS. The symposium followed a year of celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Each day the moderator would post a synthesis of the days proceedings onto a public blog and invite comments. (Not sure that the public did actually comment, but it was available for viewing.) At the end of the symposium, one panelist stated, “the existential threads and streams that have originated between/amongst the panelists will, I suspect, continue long after the symposium goes offline. Opportunities for cross-fertile and synergetic collaboration abound.” Besides the enthusiasm of the participants, I think that the close moderation and facilitation of the online discussion and a pre-symposium training of all the panelists on the tools they would be using helped make this a successful scholarly endeavor. - phyllis.hecht phyllis.hecht May 2, 2010
  • Tracer and Tynt for generating heat maps for copy-paste actions. I understand Seb Chan at the PowerHouse Museum has been using Tynt for some time now.


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