“Please sir, I want some more”: Museum Orphans in the Digital Breadlines.

Odile Dumbleton


The creation or reuse of existing digital objects is a currently underexplored area in LAM literature, and has the potential to be of great use to the broader community. The roots of this research were first imagined in 2004 by Ken Hamma, as he reflected on what the integration of new technologies meant for both museums and the information professionals that serve them (Hamma, 2004). This work is important because there is a large body of “orphaned” or “abandoned” digital objects in the world which represent lost opportunities and funding that could be revived or recycled with new purpose, possibly adding value to their initial investments of time, money, and expertise.

From the early years of scanning to create digital surrogates right up to twenty-first century born-digital objects, digital artefacts and their associated processes and practices have changed in nature and purpose. An examination of past practices, both positive and negative, will help to define the scope of my research as I aim to understand the characteristics of an impactful, reusable, and effective exhibition of digital collections within the LAM context. My research aims to explore digital cultural heritage exhibitions and their potential for optimal primary and improved secondary use.

In 2010 Paul Marty observed that the LAM community in general and the preservation sector in specific “now functions largely within the environment of digital technologies” (2010, p. 20). With the thorough entrenchment of technology into the processes of digital cultural heritage it is important to shift our expectations surrounding digital resources and their potential for reuse. As the body of research surrounding digital objects grows, the way the cultural heritage community creates, provides access to, uses, and repurposes digital resources should also be evolving. This research will provide greater insight into which digital cultural heritage practices are the most beneficial to the digital cultural heritage community.


Odile Dumbleton (@odiled) is a doctoral student at the School of Information and Communication Studies at University College Dublin. Her research interests lie in the study of digital cultural heritage objects and how changes in user perception might impact the viability of digital projects in a LAM context. She has held several roles including archivist, librarian, and collections assistant at a variety of cultural heritage institutions across the United States and in the Republic of Ireland. She holds an MSc in Digital Curation from University College Dublin, an MLS with Archives Certificate from Pratt Institute and a BA from DePaul University.