This question just arouse to me, while I was researching for my thesis topic.
Let me explain ( I am just brainstorming here, so sorry for the loose ends and hussled conclusions):
Over the past 1.5 years I have been monitoring the digital developments in the heritage sector. From 'simple' digitizing issues - like best practise for digitizing material, or Hertiage institution's websites as dead ends (every institution for itsself digitizes material that has been digitized by others in more efficient ways, no linking between websites etc.)
- to the call from web 2.0 an web 3.0 evangelists to heritage institutions to free their data and become platforms rather than provide moderated and closed content.
The bottom line is, what was true maybe a year ago, that heritage institutions were running behind the development on the web, has tremendously changed. It seems every single institution is engaging with the participatory web technology. Besides that, the people working in the heritage sector are so good connected and share best practices that it seems that web 2.0 has never had another purpose. Think only of all the wiki's that are in used only by stuff members to inform each other first, visitors are next in the line - so is their content.
While the practise sharing part is a very positive thing, because it finally gets heritage people out of their ivory towers and talking to each other, I still have the feeling that the final goal, namely to engage with the user is kind of driven to hights it was never supposed to reach. Or, it is misunderstood, because most things I see on the web are engaging the user, thus keeping him occupied with the instituition, but not engaging with him. Or what actually happens with the contributed content? (and I am not talking about special exhibitons that are made of user generated content etc.).
While it is great that now you can give your comment on every single picture and item on a museum website (e.g. http://www.maritiemdigitaal.nl/
(S(tw4zeluiqqeaqju22m04l0bg))/default.aspx) and even upload your own pictures, I wonder if really a lot of people do that. Because what benefit do they have from it??? Except that it is extremely timeconsuming because you can't use already existing profiles on and uploaded pictures on other sites.
Museums, archives and libraries start to think web 2.0, yes, but they do not start to think as a user or vistior - at least, most of them don't. If they did, they would invent web 2.0 functionality that acts to the users needs, not create new artificial needs. But what are the user's needs? In my opinion, time is our most precious good these days. Anything that saves a visitor (user) time will be a success. What saves time? Anything that goes beyond the own websites walls - and enages with the places where users already are (facebook, flickr, etc. but also the real site: like buying your museum ticket online so that you don't have to wait in the long row before the entrance, ordering your documents for the readingroom online, etc.).
So, what do you think of it?