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Google Cultural Institute

October 12, 2012

You may be wondering what Google does with all the money it doesn’t pay in taxes.  Well, I’m sure part of it goes toward running the Google Cultural Institute which helps preserve and promote culture online.  So far they’ve helped digitise collections around the globe including the Dead Sea Scrolls, Anne Frank’s life, the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa through the archives of Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, some truly remarkable images from Auschwitz, and many others.

There are distinct advantages to Google’s benevolence, some items would never be seen in real life or would require such expansive conservation methods that display would be absolutely impractical.  And so many more can engage with these digital copies as a result which is great.  But I found myself flicking through these stories without really engaging with them in a way I would in a museum, or even a book.  They seemed to lack the aura of the object and they communicated less than they could, and this seems to be the challenge of the digital object, there’s a veneer about them, they’re almost too clean (the colour photos of Nazi Germany are simply incredible) and they lack the history of the object which gives it its power.  It’s an interesting challenge for the future, will we become more digitally literate or will the aura of the object simply resonate more?

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