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“Memory is a mirror that scandalously lies.” 
― Julio CortázarAround the Day in Eighty Worlds

Life stories and other personal biographical accounts should be considered as significant manifestations of the intangible cultural heritage. It addresses the consequences for ‘memory institutions’, i.e. museums, libraries, archives and similar bodies, in relation to the protection and safeguarding of this heritage. First, the main challenges that these institutions have to face in order to protect this special kind of heritage are considered. Second, there is consideration of the main changes caused by the introduction of new information communication technologies (ICTs) into the cultural heritage world, and specifically, the effect of ICT developments on the institutions responsible for autobiographical memoirs are examined.

2081409552728_lgSLyjkp_lIllustration, Cartola

The incorporation of sound and visual archives into cybermuseographical discourse creates new narratives that combine a range of elements: hypertexts, images, audio, video, animations etc.. This very multiplicity of elements combines to create a new way of interpreting and disseminating heritage that is more interactive, accessible and didactic. The traditional museographical discourse based on the exhibition of objects, accompanied by text and graphic explanations, is transformed. Thus, it is the protagonists themselves, through their own voices and gestures, who involve us in their history.

20346925900_3ShcMp8j_lIllustration: Brain Stuff by Dirty Pixel

The increasingly widespread adoption of Internet- based communication by the heritage world has opened up a wide range of both challenges and new opportunities for memory institutions: already many museums, libraries and archives around the world receive far more ‘virtual’ visits than the number of visitors coming in person through their doors. The potential is especially strong for working with manifestations of the intangible cultural heritage, since the very nature of the Internet favours the use of diverse techniques for conserving and disseminating supporting information about heritage.

4540304632da1263384247822a296369Yuri Suzuki: garden of russolo sound installation at V&A during London Design Festival

In this context, life stories and similar personal accounts and reminiscences can be considered a significant category of the intangible cultural heritage and the communication of these via the Internet presents both a challenge and an opportunity for memory institutions of all kinds, and can help to build closer links between museums, libraries and archives and their local communities. The Internet is thus creating a new role for memory institutions within the Information Society of the 21st century, helping to ensure they remain important, first rate, social and educational agents into the foreseeable future.

Resource: Laura Solanilla
Lecturer, Open University of Catalonia, Spain