Curating Digital Images:
Ethnographic Perspectives on the Affordances of Digital Images in Heritage and Museum Contexts

From December 2019, CARMAH will be home to the DFG-funded project “Curating Digital Images:  Ethnographic Perspectives on the Affordances of Digital Images in Heritage and Museum Contexts”. The project is located within the DFG priority programme “Das digitale Bild” / “The Digital Image” and will bring ethnographic perspectives to bear on practices of digital curation in museums and heritage. It couples  the research expertise of CARMAH – with its main applicants being Christoph Bareither and Sharon Macdonald – with perspectives and approaches of media and digital anthropology, as well as information science, with Elke Greifeneder as project co-applicant. The empirical core of the project consists of two interconnected ethnographic studies, both focussing on the curation practices of laypeople. The first study examines how users of digital image archives view, search, sort, alter and creatively rearrange these images and for what purposes. The second concentrates on the digital image practices and social media activity of museum and heritage visitors. Besides providing new empirical insights of value for both research and practice, the project will make a significant contribution to the conceptual and theoretical debates of the DFG Digital Image priority programme. From an ethnographic perspective, the particularities of the digital image – and therefore its theory – can only be understood in relation to the practices surrounding and enacting such images. Thus, the question “What is the digital image?” is not to be answered by theory and by examination of the images alone but is, crucially, about their lives in use.