Museum Informatics across the Curriculum: Ten Years of Preparing LIS Students for Careers Transcending Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Article excerpt

Library and Information Science (LIS) students are increasingly interested in pursuing careers that transcend traditional boundaries between libraries, archives, and museums. To help students achieve these goals, the LIS programs at the University of Illinois and Florida State University have offered courses on museum informatics-the sociotechnical interactions between people, information, and technology in museums-since 2001 and 2003 respectively. An examination of the evolution of these courses over the past decade provides a unique opportunity to explore their relevance and value to LIS students, their ability to meet student needs and educational goals, and their integration into the LIS curriculum. Through a content analysis of course syllabi and assignments, this article examines how the teaching of museum informatics in LIS programs has evolved in response to course evaluations and research publications documenting the changing nature of information work in museums. It discusses key milestones in the evolution of the course from examining museums as a unique information organization to helping students acquire the knowledge they need to work across all types of cultural heritage institutions.

Keywords: museum informatics, cultural heritage organizations, information professionals, course development and evolution, content analysis, transcending libraries, archives, and museums

Introduction

LIS students are increasingly interested in pursuing careers that transcend the boundaries between libraries, archives, and museums. They are well aware that access to digital resources has blurred traditional distinctions between information organizations, leading to a digital convergence of libraries, archives, and museums (Zorich, Waibel, & Erway, 2008; cf. Rayward, 1 998). To improve their understanding of the responsibilities of information professionals in cultural heritage institutions, they seek out courses on digital archives and digital preservation, and they enroll in interdisciplinary programs in the digital humanities and museum studies. Recent years have seen renewed interest in research exploring the overlapping educational goals of LIS, archival studies, and museum studies programs (Given & McTavish, 2010; Trant, 2009). Workshops, conferences, and new funding initiatives have focused on the common challenges facing libraries, archives, and museums, exploring how educators and practitioners can work together to meet their shared information needs (Marty, 2008).

This article contributes to this small but growing body of literature by documenting the evolution of a course on museum informatics - the sociotechnical interactions between people, information, and technology in museums - at two different universities: the University of Illinois and Florida State University (FSU). An analysis of the evolution of these courses over the past decade provides a unique opportunity to explore their relevance and value to LIS students, their ability to meet student needs and educational goals, and their integration into the LIS curriculum. This study identifies important milestones in the evolution of the course, detailing how each new iteration was influenced by research publications and course evaluations, and examining the lessons learned at each stage in the process. The results help illustrate best practices for LIS, museum studies, and archival studies educators and practitioners as they work to meet the shared challenges facing cultural heritage organizations.

Literature Review

Museum informatics is the "study of the sociotechnical interactions that take place at the intersection of people, information, and technology in museums" (Marty, 2010, p. 3717). This literature review provides the necessary background for a study of museum informatics in LIS programs by examining the historical connections between museum studies and LIS education, and recent initiatives to prepare students for careers in libraries, archives, and museums. …

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