Complexity, transdisciplinarity and museum collections documentation: Emergent metaphors for a complex world

Fiona Cameron*, Sarah Mengler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Our world is becoming increasingly complex, characterized by mobile, global networks, flows and fluids of culture producing new levels of inter-connectivity and interaction. Museum collections are inducted into this hyper-complex world and wider debates in public culture through Googleenabled initiatives and links to YouTube, Flickr and MySpace. As museum culture and public culture reconnect through these various modalities, this poses new sets of challenges for museums, demonstrated by the different and increasingly complex exchanges and interactions observed around objects. Collection documentation systems, however, still tend to produce a certain and stable material world with clearly defined cultural categorizations. This article explores theories of hyper-complexity and transdisciplinarity developed as part of the Australian Research Council Project's Reconceptualising Heritage Collections. It reframes ways of understanding the relations and organization surrounding museum objects in today's hyper-complex, nonlinear world. Moreover, it offers a conceptual framework for re-imagining collections' interpretative and management practices as they might operate as complex systems in these new political spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-218
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Complexity theory
  • Documentation
  • Museum collections
  • Networks
  • Transdisciplinarity


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