I have many memories from my childhood that involve physically being at museums. One of my mom’s particular favorites is the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. We used to go to family nights where there were special activities for kids in all the exhibits and I got to explore different parts of the museum. Those nights at the MFA allowed me to experience and appreciate famous works of art and culture.
Some people argue that the growing digitization of historical and artistic collections will decrease the general public’s true appreciation of art. However, that argument ignores the tremendous opportunities digitization provides. Last year, I took an art history class that focused on East Asian art. While studying for tests, I was able to access real, detailed pictures of the different works from the museums that own them. That access to famous and important works of art would not have been available if digital art collections did not exist (see this New York Times article). The digitization of art and historical records is also important for preservation. Historical artifacts degrade overtime and digitization preserves them for future generations to study and learn from. The open availability of digital collections allows for people all over the world to view art, artifacts, and documents that they would never be able to see in person. This allows open access to knowledge and information that museums before digitization did not provide.