Workshop 5 ~ Being GLAM

GLAMeration, let it begin!


Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums, An all rolled into one framed depiction!

There were 3 key questions posed in Workshop 5’s introduction of the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) industry sector:

  • Are we seeing a GLAM convergence?
  • If so what does this mean for the individual institutions that are part of this convergence?
  • What are the implications for educating and preparing professionals to work within GLAM?

While contemplating these questions, Workshop 5 involved listening to two guest speakers, that being Shannon Wellington and Katherine Howard, both of whom have carried out significant research into GLAM, scratching a multi-faceted industry sector.

Shannon Wellington was the first guest speaker discussing her primary research focus that was critical analysis of integrative practice between cultural heritage institutions and while listening to her, I found myself quickly searching for the exact date of when the term GLAM came into being. The earliest reference of GLAM I could locate was reference to the Australian Society of Archivists Annual Conference in 2003 as a ‘GLAM’ theme, bringing together the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums institutions of Australia and beyond (if ‘personally’ noticed). Additional GLAM resources found are listed at the end of this reflection.

As I searched it seemed to me that the rise (acknowledgement) of GLAM is relatively new in today’s age, however Kathleen’s talk provided information that was otherwise…

From Kathleen’s discussion entitled The GLAM Convergence: implications for the education of cultural heritage information professionals Australia, she let it be known the very first GLAM was actually the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt dating back to 30 BC. This library provided access to collections of works, lecture halls, meeting rooms, and gardens while being part of a larger research institution called the Musaeum (or Mouseion) of Alexandria, where many of the most famous thinkers of the ancient world studied. She acknowledged that over the centuries galleries, libraries, archives and museums ended up separating into individual institutional entities until the 1980s when the Arts & Cultural Ministers of Australia and New Zealand established the Cultural Ministers’ Cabinet (CMC). The recommendation of creating a single national industry body, representing shared interests of Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums was instigated and became the Collections Council in 2004.

Today, the GLAM cultural institutions that have converged with a similar focus and intent can be identified under the GLAM banner as institutions that are limited to being publicly funded and publicly accountable institutions collecting cultural and heritage material. While there are many differences and similarities between GLAM institutions, convergence of these institutions within Australia and New Zealand provide many opportunities such as:

  • new institutional environments
  • greater access to resourcing
  • enhanced institutional visibility
  • cross-sector skill dispersal
  • extension of current collections/operations
  • interplay between cultural heritage domains
  • sharing and pooling of resources

However, there are many challenges that could be faced by converged GLAM institutions. Challenges by way of what happens to core functions/mandates; collective identity; resource allocation; greater level of transparent accountability; dominant GLAM cultures; institutionalized practice; operational differences in physical environment and introspective focus may occur.

The Collections Council continued to collect reports for advice to practitioners within the GLAM sector, acting as an advisory body. While these papers represented an important purpose, both Shannon and Kathleen state there has been no real (academic) research into GLAM within Australia and internationally. The combination of shared information they divulged during the workshop, their individual research only scratched the GLAM surface as they confirmed there’s a huge lack of research into the GLAM sector on so many levels.

I fully agree with Shannon and Kathleen in regards to the GLAM sector requiring professionals that have flexibility, the skills and the knowledge to allow them to work across the full spectrum of these institutions. Shannon and Kathleen both confirmed advances in technology has significantly contributed to the availability of digital information and  that it has the ability to accommodate a single access point to multiple GLAM collections both virtually and physically.

In reflecting the initial questions posed for Workshop 5, I do believe GLAM convergence is here to stay and will evolve significantly as (what I see them to be) the cultural heritage preservation keepers (CHPK).  In order for this to be of success, GLAM individual institutions will require embracing the economic, political, technological and social benefits that emerge when converged.

With that said, I believe academic institutions will need to continue (exceedingly) important research, delving into the GLAM industry sector, so that LIS education is better informed structurally when taught to our future information professionals.

Libraries Archives & Museums are all social agencies that are collectively responsible
for preserving the shared knowledge of humankind and making it available to
everyone to use and transmitting it to future generations
~~ MARTIN, 2007


  • The Australian GLAM sector & Creative Commons
    The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney in 2008 became the first museum in the world to share its historic images on Flickr Commons using Creative Commons licences. Within the first week their Flickr Commons page had over 20,000 views from around the globe.
  • OpenGLAM
    OpenGLAM is an initiative run by the Open Knowledge Foundation that promotes free and open access to digital cultural heritage held by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.
  • GLAMkit
    GLAMkit is a free, open-source content platform for the cultural sector. It’s designed from the ground up to be robust and flexible, so that GLAM institutions can use it out-of-the-box to manage articles, events, blogs, visitor information and collections online, or extend it to produce a bespoke content publishing system
  • GLAM Wiki
    The GLAM Wiki project supports GLAMs and other institutions who want to work with Wikimedia to produce open-access, freely-reusable content for the public.

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