Let the objects speak: online museums and indigenous cultural heritage

Saskia Vermeylen, Jeremy Pilcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper seeks to contribute to the critical debate about curatorial practices and how museums can be transformed into cultural centres that are 'decolonising' their objects whilst simultaneously providing social agency to marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples. An exploration of new media theory, installation art and online museums allows us to examine to what extent an online museum might provide scope to further the debate about how indigenous heritage can be displayed and curated. Through a case study of a hypothetical online museum of the San's culture, we theorise and explore in what shape and form an online museum might play a role in the communication, support, and safeguarding of the culture and heritage of the San. While online museums may, and have, taken various forms, we argue that a digitised reproduction of three dimensional objects within virtual rooms is not a valuable method for achieving inclusivity. Instead, inspired by new media art, we engage with a new way of classifying material which allows interactivity and communication between the visitor and curator (i.e. indigenous peoples) through the creation of both the database of, and the interface(s) to, the material archived in the online indigenous museum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-78
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Intangible Heritage
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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