>Your Photos on Museums: Ile Ife National Museum, Nigeria

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You are e-artcasting’s most precious value. Thanks to your emails, comments and contributions e-artcasting’s mission is increasing its diverse outreach.

One of our most active activities is located at our Flickr group. “E-artcasters” are about to contribute 1,000 wonderful and rare photos on art museums from all over the world, so it is hight time for celebration. Today we start a new section named, “Your Photos on Museums” in which we will rescue on weekly basis a selection of your best contributions at our Flickr pool.

For our Grand Opening, this exquisite image of the Ile Ife National Museum (Nigeria) taken in April 1958 and posted by Rabinal, who also shared with us a fragment of The White traveller in Black Africa, by Colin Wills,

The Creation of the World (Yoruba version). The creation of the world took place at Ife. Orafame. The Supreme Being, the Creator, sent Orishala out from heaven to create the world. The way was long and hot, and Orishala rested in a grove of palms. He was thirsty, and he drank palm wine, and fell asleep, a serious dereliction in one with such a high task. Orafame was disappointed. He called another demigod named Oduwa, and sent him forth to carry out the mission. Oduwa did not pause by the way. He took earth, a hen, and a chameleon. The hen spread out the earth and scraped it into a mound, just as you will see her do today. The chameleon moved over the mound, testing it with his light weight, feeling gently with his little feet. His delicate,tremulous movements which you can see today, are a memory of that great task. From the mound grew the Earth. It was there that Orfame set down the first man and woman, and from there stemmed the Yoruba people. The mound still exists; I will show it to you presently, said my guide. Oduwa, naturally, is worshipped by millions of Yoruba. The chameleon is also sacred, and the hen, though eaten, is regarded with great respect and affection. But the strange thing is that Orishala also has his devotees. One might expect them to be the wine-bibbers of the community. On the contrary, they are the teetotallers. When Orishala awoke and found that somebody else had created the world while he slept, he bitterly lamented his failure, and swore never to touch palm wine again. He never did, and neither do any of his followers. His failing remains an example forever, a warning to men of their own frailties.

Image: Rabinal: Museum at Ife, posted on September 2006.

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Is Social Media Twisting to Populist Elitism? YouTube Awards and User Generated Content

It seems clear that the most popular social media platforms are for profit initiatives as explained in our former article on Second Life and art museums. Unfortunately or not, social does not mean gratis. However, and as a result of the twist to a more commercial strategy from social media companies, we have noticed an increasing will for establishing “quality differences” among user generated content.

The New York Times’ article, “YouTube Awards the Top of Its Heap” by Virginia Heffernan underlines the consequences of those changes implemented by YouTube. This online community is not any more about “no judgments, no hierarchies, big bandwidth and lots of freedom” but about competition for popularity. In other words, the most voted video, the best one.

We can bet that never a museum related video will win any award at YouTube. But do not panic, although we would love it, being popular is not the same as being prestigious. Prestige is about being important to the ones you really (your museum) care. Should museums care about everyone’s opinion? Ideally, yes because we are institutions opened to everyone. But if our standard is everyone’s opinion, how should we understand the fact that most of people do not care about museums? Is everyone’s opinion really meaningful to us? Let us assume it: we are a minority’s subject, we talk to a minority, and we have to live with that fact in the world of social media “the most voted” competitions.

As it is our belief that museums should be primarily prestigious and if so, popular as well, being a minority should not mean any problem. The problem comes when the idea of prestige is twisted to elitism because of a commercial strategy. Apparently, “being different” is becoming the most important value among online community members. Should be social media about establishing differences inside communities, or about sharing? The answer is not easy because what museums really do is establishing quality differences by proposing selected exhibitions and collections. We are lost…

Video waterrandi: The Museum of Lost Wonder, 2006. Posted on October 2.


>What People Say… about the National Museum of Iraq: Raising Awareness on that Shameful Looting to the Humankind

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What people say about the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad is certainly not enough. The shame that the looting of Iraq Museum in Baghdad meant to the so called “civilization” is nothing in comparison with its irreversible loss, better said: our irreversible loss. That crime was something that not only affected thousands of museum professionals, archaeologists, art historians, and researchers from all over the world; that crime was a looting of our history, of our humankind heritage.

The first sentences of the Iraq Museum Database created by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago can give an accurate vision of the scope of the looting,

No other museum can rival the collections of Mesopotamian artifacts in the Iraq Museum. Spanning a time from before 9,000 B.C. well into to the Islamic period, the Iraq Museum’s collections includes some of the earliest tools man ever made, painted polychrome ceramics from the 6th millennium B.C., a relief-decorated cult vase from Uruk, famous gold treasures from the Royal Cemetery at Ur, Sumerian votive statues from Tell Asmar, Assyrian reliefs and bull figures from the Assyrian capitals of Nimrud, Nineveh, and Khorsabad, and Islamic pottery and coins–an unrivaled treasure not only for Iraq, but for all mankind.


To the ones who maybe could think that the stolen objects be recovered with a lot of effort, money and politics’ will; we would say that nothing can be done to retrieve Iraqi antiquities to their original state before the looting, nothing. Apart from the massive pillage, lots of art works were literally destroyed and smashed as you could see in the video titled “Remember Iraq’s Heritage, Our Heritage” posted on the social software by non-profit organization Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE.) This organization dedicated to preserve cultural heritage worldwide has organized “A Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum” to raise awareness about that terrible crime.

April 10-12, 2007 will be the fourth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone is organizing a worldwide candlelight vigil to end the looting and destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq, and around the world.


With that aim, SAFE has interviewed Dr. Doony George Houkhanna, former responsible of Iraq Museum in Baghdad’s collection and currently visiting professor of Stony Brook University, in a video that we wish you will hopefully help to spread in blogs, workplaces and classrooms.

On April 10, 2003 news broke that shook the world. During three days and nights, thousands of priceless artifacts from the cradle of civilization were systematically looted from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. As Director of Research, Dr. Doony George Houkhanna has been responsible of the museum’s collection for decades and became a witness to a terrible event.


lamusediffuse, the organization behind e-artcasting project, is an international collaborative team exploring the forms, impact, and possibilities of electronic technologies in contemporary culture. Our mission is improving lives for individuals by improving access to culture through digital technologies and their creations, and in fact, some of us are from Baghdad. Witnessing the looting that our beloved country has suffered and still does exceeds the irreparable impact of the pillage at National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, as it is accurately underlined by Dr. Houkhanna when he speaks about the loss and destruction in Iraqi excavations. As Dr. Houkhanna proposes, “Let’s gather together and see what we can do, so that people will not forget what happened.”

In addition to SAFE, some other organizations have implemented praiseworthy initiatives for the Iraqi cultural relief. Apart from the cited Oriental Institute of Chicago and its comprehensive website Lost Treasures from Iraq, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has implemented a specific webpage entitled Resources on Iraqi Museum Collections in addition to the Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities at Risk, which has been placed among other sad and shameful bunch of red lists on cultural heritage. Do not also forget to check the comprehensive SAFE List of Resources on Iraq.

“A Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum” will take place on April 10-12, 2007 to, “show your support for Iraq. Demand the return of the missing Iraq Museums artifacts. And demand the end of the looting and destruction of the world’s cultural heritage.” lamusediffuse will of course join this wonderful initiative and we will do it in different places.

At the moment, one of the venues in which we will be part of and where can not be a better context because it is a museum professional meeting, the Museums and the Web 2007 International Conference for Culture and Heritage Online at San Francisco. Another venue we are trying to implement will be at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. We will provide you more specific details about it at e-artcasting.

However, in some places this gathering call is going to have no visible face, because life for Iraqis working for humankind’s culture is not easy, as Dr. Houkhanna explains to Cindy Ho in this 38-minute interview to SAFE. We will be there, be sure. We just need you too.

Images
SAFE: Flyer of “A Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum.” 2007
savingantiquities: Remember Iraq‘s Heritage, Our Heritage. Posted on March 20, 2007
namirkh: End of Civilization. Posted on February 15, 2007
BI30: “Stuff Happens!” – Rumsfeld on looting after fall of Baghdad. Posted on August 01, 2006


Providing ‘Free’ Digital Images to Scholars: Met, ARTstor and Accessibility to Online Art Collections

Past March 12, 2007, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on its website, a “pioneering initiative to provide digital images to scholars at no charge.” This announcement has been immediately spread by the scholar blogosphere, as for example in the blog of The Chronicle of the Higher Education and The Attic.

This new service entitled “Images for Academic Publishing” (IAP) has been implemented in partnership with the nonprofit organization ARTstor. This service,

…will make images available via software on the ARTstor Web site. Initially, nearly 1,700 images representative of the broad range of the Metropolitan Museum‘s encyclopedic collection will be available through the more than 730 institutions that currently license ARTstor. Efforts to expand this accessibility are now underway and will be announced by ARTstor at a later date.

According to The Chronicle of the Higher Education scholars in the USA have to pay high permission rates to make use of museums’ images; a problem that, maybe, does not relate to researchers in some other countries. However, the questions here are numerous.

Although we consider this partnership among The Met and ARTstor a wonderful initiative and we really wish it would be imitated by other museums, we are especially concerned about the accessibility of this project.

This initiative is only applicable “for use in academic publications.” So, what would be considered an academic publication? Are publications outside universities and research centers -but signed by scholars- eligible? How is going to affect this to publishing companies? Are independent researchers considered scholars? About these issues you could read an interesting thread at Musematic.

Our second concern relates to the fact that, till the moment, only “the more than 730 institutions that currently license ARTstor” could have access to this service. In other words, this service is not for the overall academic community, it is just for certain institutions. Moreover, we could guess that although this service is strikingly announced as “no charge for scholars,” becoming an ARTstor member required paying a fee, as eventually it was. But even willing to pay, not anyone could belong to the community because only institutions from, United States, Canada, Australia | New Zealand, and United Kingdom are eligible.
About this, and as a disclaimer, ARTstor explains on its website,

ARTstor participation will be limited, at least initially, to interested institutions in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Intellectual property and copyright law differs from country to country; most of the content in the ARTstor Digital Library will be available to international participants, but some copyrighted materials will not be available due to copyright concerns. In time, we expect to expand the availability of the ARTstor Digital Library internationally.

Eventually, we wonder what the best formula to provide non charged uses to nonprofit organizations is in an online context for art collections. At the end, internet uses of online collections are being regulated by each country’s legal frame and within the strict boundaries of economical power. So, access to online art collections still remain restricted to certain people and areas of the world while the utopia of Web 2.0 as a universal plaza remains still as a dream. This is however, a difficult problem that requires the will of establishing international suitable laws and more partnerships like The Met has done.

However, some other improvements could be easily done for a more accurate policy on who are the potential professional users of online art collections. We wish The Met will extented the IAP service to Museum Professional Associations, from the listed and not listed countries. Do we need to be “scholars” to need access to online collections? We can guess that the members of AFRICOM, AAM, AAMC, COVICOM, ICOM, Museum-Ed, or SMA (just to provide some professional associations examples) would really appreciate and get good benefit of this gesture.


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