The British Museum Website

Speaking of institutions, as I did in the previous post, I received a list of recommended websites from StumbleUpon and the British Museum’s site was listed. When I think of an institution, I think of the British Museum.

I’ve done research there and I find it a remarkably interesting place. And I realize even writing that last sentence can offend those who take offense at the very existence of institutions such as the British Museum.

I’m referring to the conversation about the role of museums, their authenticity, their value as archives, their social and cultural function as conservators or as exploiters. Museums are returning cultural objects and human remains to people from whom they extracted them years ago. It’s a conflicted context and a worthy illustration of the interplay between an institution’s mission and the social context in which it was formed. A museum reflects the values that informed the mission when it was organized in addition to the values it seeks to display through its offerings. A changing context calls those values into question and, in the case of museums, demands adaptation and deep change.

That said, this is one of the most intriguing institutional websites I’ve seen. On the face of it, it’s worth visiting for the experience it offers. It’s an example of an old-line institution breaking into the digital world.

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