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research hypothesis

The existing paradigm(s) of collecting institutions, rooted in the requirement to provide public value from physical collections in fixed locations (the institutional service paradigm), may not be able to accommodate successfully the development of online service offers that are distinctive in form and maximise public value through alignment with trends in user needs and behaviours.

The GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector faces enormous challenges in the next decade arising from the massive pace of change in its operating environment; challenges it can only face effectively by collaborating across the sector, beyond organisational and disciplinary boundaries…The growing expectation from the public for easy and seamless access to Australia’s distributed national collection, the pressures of the operating environment and similarities in the digital practice of GLAM organizations make cross-sector collaboration more obviously crucial for innovation, resource and knowledge sharing.”

Mansfield, T. et al. 2014. Innovation Study: Challenges and Opportunities for Australia’s Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation


Collecting Institutions in the Network Society is a multidisciplinary study examining present practices and policies of collecting institutions (museums, galleries, libraries and archives) in their use and development of digital technologies, within the context of wider socio-technical change. It investigates whether existing service paradigms are best suited to future digital delivery of services in the emergent Network Society.

It uses an interpretive methodological approach creating a body of phenomenological evidence enabling comparison between the organisational context, internal practices, histories and policies of collecting institutions, and the wider socio-technical impact of the Internet. Literature reviews provide evidence from the ‘outer world’ of Internet developments and impact to establish four Generic Drivers of Internet Change. For the ‘inner world’ of collecting institutions, organisational context and research and development on innovation are examined to analyse various perspectives on common approaches to service policy and practice. Additionally, textual analysis of institutional mission statements and policy documents is used to establish the degree of common purpose across collecting institutions and the preparedness of practitioners and policymakers to deal with rapid socio-technical change.

The evidence is synthesised to define an Institutional Paradigm describing the present operational processes and practices of collecting institutions. This is compared with the four Generic Drivers to define opportunities and challenges that collecting institutions face in exploiting the Internet. This synthesis demonstrates that the siloised and fragmented nature of the Institutional Paradigm creates significant barriers to effective exploitation. Evidence from the textual analysis is used to develop a Shared Mission Statement for all collecting institutions as the foundation of a strategic digital future.

The study proposes a radically new service paradigm (the Digital Knowledge Ecology) enabling collecting institutions to achieve maximum user value in their delivery of digital services, and concludes with proposals for actions to build a collective strategy.