An interesting topic for discussion this, for it brings up many questions about the meaning and nature of objects. In her presentation Alex shows us how her research, currently in its final stages, stands at this present time. She hopes, through it, to advocate an ethical approach to digital items which dehomogenises the way in which they are usually displayed by online museums. It is a really considered approach to her work, thoughtful and provocative, for it discusses the value of objects and how they change from sacred space, to museum setting, to rendered image, to online display, and the ethical implications of each of these statuses.
For this case, she presents a study of the issues surrounding the online display of a particular Buddha image. She has conducted much research with the Buddhist communities, and found that there were very differing viewpoints upon the nature of the online image of Buddha. Some groups are prepared to worship the online image, viewing it as a simulacra of the Buddha, in much the same way as the physical manifestation of the object is. (Indeed, Alex notes, Baudrillard's discussion was seminal for her work.) Other groups, conversely, considered the worship of the online object a problem. Images displayed online, some worry, may not be accorded the same respect as those in a physical space. The replicative and networked nature of the web can 'objectify' the image, making it seem ordinary and leaving it open to crassness which damages its purity.
What does this mean, though, for the online display of sacred objects by museums? It is a question which they have to address. How do they code and describe the objects in their care? They must remember that practitioners of the faiths which their obejcts represent will never see them purely in artistic terms, and they need to be able, somehow, to acknowledge this.
Indeed, should such images be displayed at all? It is an interesting and provocative question to ask, and one to which I do not know the answer. Indeed, Alex herself admits to having to think hard about whether to include images in her final submission - she does not include many in her presentation. It's a conundrum with which I wish her luck! Thank you for a wonderful, thought provoking presentation Alex.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.