Digital Heritage Consumption: The Case of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cultural consumption is increasingly moving into a digital realm where art and non-art spaces blur in an all-inclusive image-rich environment online. While cultural consumption studies remain limited to a defined cultural environment (e.g. the museum website), we will analyse the patterns of consumption of 119 paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in an all-inclusive online environment, Wikipedia. We will find paintings in art as well as non-art related articles and compare visibility to the institutional physical and online exhibition, a purely art environment. We will find a greater share of digital cultural consumption takes place in non-art related articles, inferring accidental consumption, while fact-checking and the presence of articles about obscure paintings satisfy a utilitarian information use. We will argue that digital cultural consumption can expand the user base when positioned outside of the expected art context, enabling new forms of hedonic and utilitarian consumption. Our results suggest that the adoption of the online encyclopaedia by superstar museums reflects a new conceptualisation of authentic taste that includes digital consumption, highlighting the collection’s information value.