VALA2018 Session 4 Jones

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vala invited paper

Descending upright among staring fish: improving the sustainability of the GLAM reef

Tuesday 13 February 2018, 14:45 – 15:15

Mike Jones

The University of Melbourne

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View the video of the presentation on the VALA2018 GigTV channel here:


Inspired by Vladimir Nabokov and Donna Haraway, this paper explores interconnected collections using the concept of the reef. It is a world of accumulations and accretions, where short-term dynamism and change are supported by a coralline scaffolding that develops and solidifies over much longer timeframes. As the residents live, play, and feed, humans come to explore, some skimming over the surface, some snorkelling for a better view, others diving down in search of an in-depth encounter.

While galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) have engaged with visions of aggregation and relationality, our collections documentation and many of the systems we use remain comparatively linear, hierarchical, and discrete. Drawing on three years of research, into museums and their archives and libraries, this paper uses the metaphor of the reef to take a dive into the history of GLAM collection documentation. By highlighting the gap between current practice and contemporary understandings of the interconnected nature of collections, the author will argue that it is only through the implementation of more effective processes and sustainable systems that we can prevent fundamental collections knowledge regularly leaching away.


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