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VCU Archaeology

Invisible Objects and Virtual Curation

by Bernard K. Means, Director

Today’s (October 13, 2013) Washington Post Arts section has a nice two-page spread on important cultural heritage items being curated at Washington D.C. area museums that are currently out of view of the general public.  One item–a pair of shoes recovered from the site of the horrific Boston Marathon Bombings (April 15, 2013)–are being kept off display by the Newseum until curators deem sufficient time has passed since that tragic event.  Most items discussed in the Arts section, however, are not being displayed simply because all museum curators have to make decisions about what tiny part of their vast collections they can show at any time. And, some items, no matter how significant, can be exhibited for only a short period–if at all–because the act of exhibiting them would endanger the item itself. And, sometimes the item might endanger the public!

Virtual curation certainly is one way to make items accessible to the public that cannot be physically put on exhibit. Here in the Virtual Curation Laboratory, we are developing a Virtual Curation Museum that will open in less than two weeks that contains some items not usually on display.  But, more on that later.

A Colonoware smoking pipe from James Madison's Montpelier.

A Colonoware smoking pipe from James Madison’s Montpelier.

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