#CyberFLASH: Science and Tech museums’ documents to be ‘open by default’ by fall, CEO pledges

a-woman-uses-her-computer-keyboard-to-type-while-surfing-the-internet-in-north-vIn a government town like Ottawa, where information has traditionally been jealously guarded, what Alex Benay is proposing could trigger a bout of cognitive dissonance.

According to Benay, president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation, almost all documents generated by the corporation’s three national museums – Science and Technology, Aviation and Space, and Agriculture and Food – will soon be available to the public through an online portal.

“Our hope is by the fall, roughly 90 per cent of our information is available to the public in real time,” Benay said in an interview Monday, hours after tweeting that museum documents will be “open by default” by autumn.

Not everything will be made public: cabinet documents and material dealing with such things as personnel matters or corporate planning will remain confidential.

But after that, pretty much anything goes, Benay said, including early drafts of historical assessments, exhibition plans and schedules for travelling exhibitions.

Within two or three years, he said, even internal emails should be made public on the corporation’s Open Heritage Portal (documents.techno-science.ca).

“The problem with email is volume,” Benay said. “That’s what we’re wrestling with.” Solving that will require technology that “we may or may not have yet. But eventually, we want to share everything we do on email.”

The corporation’s three museums are the first national museums in Canada to create a portal for open access to their documents. In fact. said Benay, “We haven’t been able to find another cultural institution anywhere in the world that is trying this.”

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