Reflections on technology in history museums

It is hard to believe we are already on our last day at the 2012 ALHFAM conference. I have been energized for the year ahead with the great sessions I have attended, and the interactions I have had with my colleagues.


Sunday, we had several great discussions about technology in museums. As our conference theme reminds us, technology has taken over all aspects of museum operations – from websites and social media, to collections management, interactive exhibits, and distance learning programs.


Alternately, the question was asked: “Do people want to see technology in history museums, or are they craving a “step back in time”? Are we destroying historical authenticity with technology?”


I think there are different answers to these questions for different sites, but the fact remains that technology is now a major vehicle in promotion, data storage, cataloguing, interpretation, and education, so we need to figure out how best to deal with it in our respective institutions.


I’d love to have some discussion in the comments section on this question – how much technology is enough, or too much, in a historic setting where authenticity is important, while remembering that we, as a museum field, need to remain relevant in the 21st century. Discuss!


About heidiglatfelter

Heidi Glatfelter is a history consultant specializing in museum exhibits, interpretation, marketing, websites, and social media. She blogs at Market Early America Consulting ( and also manages the site History Site Locator (
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One Response to Reflections on technology in history museums

  1. Derrick says:

    I think we need to offer our visitors a wide range of ways to learn. Some folks only want to hear it or see it in person. Others will be multi-tasking with their smart phones and/or iPods…. to cater to one group is to lose out on another!

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