Redefining crisis in museums: insider’s perspectives on digital engagement

Presented by: Dr Caro Wilson-Barnao, Craig Middleton (National Museum of Australia), and Lisa Enright

Date: Friday 13 May 2022
Time: 12–1pm
Location: Hybrid (Online via Zoom and in-person at the Writer's Studio (Level 6, Michie Building))


COVID-19 has highlighted an urgent need for museums to develop and implement policies and practices that allow them to be more responsive to audiences' needs during a crisis, in many cases pushing them to explore new technologies and approaches. Based on an analysis of the National Museum of Australia and its digital engagement throughout the 2019/2020 bushfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic this paper will discuss some of the contemporary logics and mechanisms at play when collecting during a crisis.  Referencing "Momentous", a purpose-built website, and two Facebook groups “Fridge Door Fire Stories” and “Bridging the Distance” we explore the content shared on these platforms by users and place this in conversation with the reflections of the cultural workers who created and maintained these online platforms. We claim that historically museums have long responded to their communities by seeking out new ways to provide collection access but suggest that we are witnessing the emergence of new approaches enabled by technologies that allow communities to take a more active role in negotiating how the museum represents their experiences.


Caroline Wilson-Barnao is a lecturer in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland. Her research examines the impacts of algorithmic technology on cultural institutions, with a focus on the impacts of digital media platforms on museums. She is the author of 'Museums as Platforms?" which was released early this year and has authored a range of related articles including "The quantified and customised museum: measuring, matching and aggregating audiences" (2020), "The logic of platforms: how on demand museums are adapting in the digital era" (2018) "How algorithmic cultural recommendation influence the marketing of cultural collections (2017) and "The personalisation of publicity in the museum" (2016). Caroline is currently a member of the Digital Cultures and Society group and the Australian Research Node.

Craig Middleton is a Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia and an Honorary Lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. At the National Museum of Australia, he is responsible for creative, content, and collections development across a range of projects and programs within the Discovery and Collections division. He is a widely published author and his book, co-authored with Dr Nikki Sullivan, Queering the Museum was published by Routledge in 2019. Craig Tweets at @_museumguy

Lisa Enright is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Communication and Arts and teaches in the museum studies program at the University of Queensland. Holding Masters' degrees in Archives and Museum Studies and having worked in the cultural sector for over two decades Lisa brings a wealth of industry experience to her current research project, which focuses on how value is articulated in cultural policy.  


About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Friday, 24 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

Fire Futures: codesigning for resilience

Dr Skye Doherty

Friday, 31 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

From Fatigue Studies to Burnout: A Brief History of Work Exhaustion

A/Prof Elizabeth Stephens



Hybrid (Online via Zoom and in-person at the Writer's Studio (Level 6, Michie Building)