Digitization is still a severe barrier for small cultural institutions in marginalized areas when it comes to heritage digital preservation and online visibility. To try to solve this, the art historian and curator Carolina Matos partnered up once again with Goethe-Institut São Paulo, Instituto Moreira Salles and Wiki Movimento Brasil through the Museu Portátil - “portable museum” - project, aimed to bring low cost equipment and capacity building trainings and materials for cultural institutions willing to digitize and share their collections online.
The Museu Portátil idea was a perfect match for Wiki Loves Bahia. Two institutions in the state - Centro de Memória da Santa Casa da Bahia and Museu da Capitania de Ilhéus - received the pilot of this low resource digitization and dissemination project that goes beyond a technological solution for documental preservation and acts as a bridge between people and their (almost) forgotten stories. Wiki Loves Bahia was an initiative led by Wiki Movimento Brasil in 2021 to make visible and improve the lack of content on Wikimedia projects about the Bahia state while engaging local cultural institutions to bridge the gap.
At the core of Museu Portátil is a portable digitization kit that includes a smartphone, a set of supports and basic lighting accessories. The equipment costs around 10 thousand BRL - less than 2 thousand US dollars -, and it is an accessible solution for institutions with low human and/or financial resources. Once the collections are digitized, the equipment can also be shared and used by different institutions in the region.
The teams in Bahia from both cultural sites received an in person training on digitization supported by Instuto Moreira Salles experts. Their Digital Sector have developed a high quality capture system for bidimensional and tridimensional objects relying on the phone’s cameras whose operation was taught during the training.
The Centro de Memória da Santa Casa da Bahia holds the UNESCO awarded documental series Livros do Banguê - a set of eleven books with recordings of burial expenses for Africans and their enslaved descendants, as well as deceased indigents between 1742 and 1856. This set of documents - whose original function was merely accounting - are key for the study of African disapora and slavery in the region given the information such as birth and deathplace, and sometimes even body marks from the colonial violence, not often recorded in those cases. Understanding how unique and powerful it is, Centro de Memória da Santa Casa da Bahia decided to start digitizing it through the Museu Portátil initiative and finally share it with the world. Meanwhile, Museu da Capitania de Ilhéus, whose collection was donated by local citizens, started to digitize its tridimensional collection of everyday objects, religious art and numismatics that portrays its colonial and slaveholder past.
After the institutions captured the images, Wiki Movimento Brasil offered online capacity building classes for the institutions both on the thinking and practices of digital culture and on how to upload the materials on Wikimedia platforms strategically.
Besides the pilot with both cultural institutions, Museu Portátil will release on February 22 a manual written by the partner institutions on how to use the equipment for digitization and how to start a GLAM Wiki initiative. The material also includes guidelines on legal aspects to make collections available under open licences and narrative reports by the Bahia institutions sharing their experiences with the kits. Hopefully, we’ll see more GLAMs rising up in Brazil with the support of an equipment as simple as an everyday smartphone.
The low cost digitization kit built for Museu Portátil is a game changing for small cultural institutions willing to share their collections online