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Going digital: who is it opening doors for?

Enabling digitalization for archives, collections and museums at large is not simply felt as a door of opportunity being opened, but rather as an exciting and dazzling box and we have yet to discover ways of how digital art history (DAH) can transform our ways of knowledge production. Simply being on a digital platform has opened up numerous opportunities for communities and activism where change is and has occurred: my mind primarily goes to the organization ‘Decolonize this Place’ who took action against Whitney Museum in New York and their board member Warren B. Kanders who has clear links of owning Safariland, known for making tear gas cans used at the US-Mexico border (Greenberger, 2019).

However, being on and utilizing social platforms is not the main point, but rather what it can bring to our ways of archiving, research and present. Bentkowska-Kafel (2015) argues for the potential of a world museum that has a global easy access reach (where the technology is accessible) (p. 56). Digital archives as well as new digital tools brings world access to collections and ways of research that otherwise would not have been available for a majority of the world and thus enabling academics to do research that would otherwise have been beyond their reach geographically, socially and economically. However, questions regarding its potential opportunities has surfaced, such as Kirsch (2014) asking who and what the digital humanities are for. He continues to question the potential additional skills required within the span of an academic career to also include skills such as coding. This could potentially cause further unequal divides, as studies continue to show that people of color within academia still have to work harder than their white colleagues in order to climb the ladder of tenure positions, and that research from scholars situated in the Global South is still not getting the same attention as from those situated in the Global North (Martinez, Chang and Welton, 2016). Contextualizing this with what Zorich (2012) argues that: ‘Individuals pursuing digital art history also worry about their career paths, since art history departments are not embracing them as serious scholars.’ (p. 25). DAH have potential beneficial opportunities to open up art history and knowledge as well as its academic rooms, but can pose issues if used as a way into a global and democratized forum of knowledge if not embraced as serious.

Kirsch (2014) argues: ‘The best thing that the humanities could do at this moment, then, is not to embrace the momentum of the digital, the tech tsunami, but to resist it and to critique it. This is not Luddism; it is intellectual responsibility.’ As I agree that this holds very true, it does not mean that we can’t still continue to look for the potential possibilities and democratizing effects that it can entail. DAH could as Zorich (2012) argues, bring in other nontraditional partnerships that could work within communities (p. 36), which could open doors that could be very beneficial for a more open world of Art History and step away from the Global North standard of academia, research and art history.

This is just initial thoughts on the topic and I am excited to be able to continue to research the possibilities and problems of digitalization from a decolonial perspective, and will through this course post more regarding this topic. Bibliography Bentkowska-Kafel, A (2015). Debating Digital Art History. International Journal for Digital Art

History, 1, pp. 50-65.

Greenberger, A. (2019). ‘We Will Come Back’: Decolonize This Place Leads Protest at Whitney, Marches to Controversial Board Member’s House. ARTnews. Retrieved from http://www.artnews.com/2019/05/17/we-will-come-back-decolonize-this-place-leads-protest-at-whitney-marches-to-controversial-board-members-house/

Kirsch, A. (2014). The Limits of the Digital Humanities. The New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/117428/limits-digital-humanities-adam-kirsch


Martinez, M., Chang, A., & Welton, A. (2016). Assistant professors of color confront the inequitable terrain of academia: a community cultural wealth perspective. Race Ethnicity And Education, 20(5), pp. 696-710.


Zorich, D. M. (2012), Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship. Report to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.

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