Who is the museum sharing authority with? How much should the museum share?

In a user-generated world, especially in the world that is deeply associated with social media, a single and final authority is less and less likely to survive. But the museums can’t just let everything go because they still hold responsibilities to people, who are whatever public or counter-public. So what is let go is “the assumption that the museum has the last word on historical interpretation”.

But what to want extent can the museum hide its own judgement and biases and make itself a neutral tool for everybody? If we look at the case of City of Memory, the project held by City Lore, which allow people to upload their stories in New York city to the website along with historical stories uploaded by the working staff. What the staff want to do here is obvious—to use the examples they have given to direct the users to generate the stories with “high qualities”. But the website is open to everyone, including those who would rather upload some the so-called “vapid” and pornographic contents. There are so many uploads that the website has to depend on interns to regulate it, which means to censor the uploads. So the problem here is there is no certain criterion for censorship. It must vary according to the different interns who take over the regulation of the website. What should be considered “vapid” and deleted was largely decided by the intern himself/herself. And that could be a great frustration to the participants of this project, who may give the stories meanings that is only meaningful for himself/herself. Does it mean users should only upload stories that is perceivable to the larger public? If it is so, then the one who participates in this project is not individuals but communities embodied by certain individuals. That is very true when we look at the stories curated by the working staff of City Lore, which is mostly collective memories or communities’ histories. Individuals are not welcomed here. Although it may not be fair to criticize it in this way since the website still contains some personal feelings and experiences that can be closely linked to the entity of New York city, the project, City of Memory, still failed to share its authority with every user or let itself be curated by the public.

Maybe that’s the problem which will haunted the tries of public curation for a longer time—how much authority should the museum share with the public on earth?

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