Today, data repositories have been divided into at least three institutions. They are museums, archives, and libraries. J. Trant has defined these as “Museums most often have unique collections. Rarity and preciousness remain key to the attraction of their objects; it gives them their aura… Museum collections protect and reserve. Contrast this with public lending libraries, grounded in access and in public literacy. Their goal is to make materials available; their collections are predominantly books, printed in many copies, inexpensively produced, often weeded regularly. Archives consist of items that are not generally intrinsically valuable but essential as evidence, especially in context.” (http://www.archimuse.com/papers/trantConvergence0908-final.pdf).
Some of the most famous libraries have been formed as parts of museums. At one time the British Library was part of the British Museum (http://suzanne-historybritishlibrary.blogspot.com/2010/10/conclusion.html). The Great Library of Alexandria “was much more than a library “[i]t “stimulated an intensive editorial program that spawned the development of critical editions, textual exegesis and such basic research tools as dictionaries, concordances and encyclopedias.”…The library in fact developed into a huge research institution comparable to a modern university—containing a center for the collection of books, a museum for the preservation of scientific artifacts, residences and workrooms for scholars, lecture halls and a refectory” (http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-places/the-ancient-library-of-alexandria/). This library attempted to have all its books translated into Greek (http://www.history-magazine.com/libraries.html). This brings to mind the effort of Google to “work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers discover new readers”( https://www.google.com/googlebooks/library/). Google has a similar project for images of artwork “which puts more than 1,000 works of art at your fingertips” (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/explore-museums-and-great-works-of-art.html).
It is noted here the W. Van Alan Clark Jr. Library supports research in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Other such schools have been mentioned in the above Trant’s article. Maybe, a community large or small may have a limited budget for libraries and museums. It might combine its budgets for the two organizations to create a better experience for the community (https://mysmfa.smfa.edu/ICS/RESOURCES/W_Van_Alan_Clark_Jr_Library__Visual_Resources.jnz).
By using the Google collection and an espresso book machine, any digitized book in the public domain could be provided to the public in paper. Such digitized book might also be generated in an electronic form (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/07378831111116903?journalCode=lht).
This discussion is not an attempt to advocate the elimination of libraries, museums, or archives. It is only to suggest that a strength of one institution might be investigated to see whether or not it can enhance the operation and functions of another institution. For a moment, imagine a child, who is interested in dinosaurs, visiting a library. Suppose there is a virtual reality device like that which is presently being developed on the Android-based Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard VR (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lunagames.jurassicvr&hl=en). In the library, this would correspond to a museum moment. Instead of using it for games, it could be used to present the talk about Microsoft virtual reality world of dinosaurs from a digital database (https://youtu.be/kbg2PLkIaDY). Further, a 3-D printer could be used to print a copy of the child’s favorite dinosaur. This could correspond to an archival moment (https://youtu.be/_KBxG1_WO8k). Now, the librarian could direct the child to the books on dinosaurs. At the same time, the parents might be reviewing the limited public domain records present in the library. All this is possible using present technology as adjunct to what is present in most librarians. Additional training might be required to create such a union. However, here is suggested a convergence of archives, libraries, and museums.
The ideas expressed above are not simply theories. The School of information and library science, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is one school which offers a dual degree program to “prepare students to take on professional positions in museums, art libraries, and visual resource centers” (http://sils.unc.edu/programs/dual-degrees/art).
Fueled by the energies derived from the fusion of two or three of those institutions and maintained by paper and electronic books and records the librarians and archivists could become scholars to inspire minds to go where no other such organization has directed them to before.
How do you use ideas from other data repositories in the 21st Century?