Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Rise of the GLAM - G(alleries), L(ibraries), A(rchives), M(useums)

Yuan Dynasty (1165-1368 C.E.)
I've been conducting research on the area of GLAMs (an acronym that stands for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums).  And I have even written about it in the past as well.  We're seeing the convergence of galleries, libraries, archives and museums collaborating together in the digital age to transcend the traditional boundaries that separated them previously.  This is not surprising at all since these cultural institutions' common goals are really about creating better user-oriented services -- whether it be housing one repository for full access to all cultural heritage or obtaining exhibiting materials for public audiences.  To put it another way, while the professional language of the work is different, but the work is very similar.

The topic of GLAMs or LAMs is still in its emerging stages.  Although the convergence of galleries, libraries, archives and museums may be seemingly a recent development amongst cultural heritage institutions, these four institutions have been intertwined from some of the earliest known institutions, and can in fact trace their historical development back to similar origins. As Katherine Howard puts it:
If galleries, libraries, archives and museums wish to continue to maximize all that the digital environment offers now and into the future, the GLAM sector may require information professionals who have the flexibility, skills and knowledge to allow them to work across the full spectrum of the GLAM institutions. . .
Indeed, to contextualize this history, Howard points out that even the most renowned ancient library   demonstrates the connection between collecting institutions. Founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, and developed and maintained by the Ptolemaic dynasty in approximately the third century BCE, the Library of Alexandria was merely one part of what was essentially a research institute known as the Museum of Alexandria.

Fast-forward to the current information climate, we see that in our information networked world, the once clearly demarcated of GLAM institutions with their unique professional histories are now realizing that users of their content want information about subjects, not information from a particular source.

I'm pleased to be working with Jenna Dufour on her LIBR 596 professional experience course. Jenna is currently an MLIS candidate at the University of British Columbia. And equally excited to be working with Patrick Lo (Professor at the University of Tsukuba's Faculty of Library, Information & Media Science) and Dickson Chiu (University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Education) on a book entitled: Conversations with the World’s Leading East Asian Librarians, Archivists & Curators, which is based on a series of interviews with different practicing librarians, archivists, and curators who specialize in East Asian collections. In asking these leading experts to describe the necessary professional skills, knowledge, and personalities that are required for working in such environments of varying size, scope, and composition in libraries, archives, and museums across the world, we examine the GLAM from a specific subject domain standpoint. It's going to be an interesting upcoming year, and one I'm busily looking forward to!