Jump-Starting Data Standards I: Launching a Data Clean-Up Program


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Presented by Merrianne Timko, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Data Standards Manager

Although standardization of data is crucial to the overall functionality of TMS, convincing curators that there can be only “one” way to catalogue a similar group of works can be challenging. However, when thousands of works in TMS need to have data standardized within a short period of time and with minimal resources, launching a data clean-up program is essential. Such a program should include a proposed timeline, a delineation of tasks and responsibilities, user-friendly guidelines, and new approaches to the utilization of TMS fields for melding a variety of cataloguing preferences.

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  • Much of the data clean-up will be relatively routine, but some areas that will more attention. One such example is “Chinese export porcelain.” Currently in TMS, one must perform multiple searches due to diverse methods of data entry. Searching on the classification Ceramics, then selecting from the dropdowns for the Constituent and Culture of Creator fields (see green columns) – 189 examples retrieved. The Medium field shows relatively little variation, so clean-up should not be too difficult.
  • Jump-Starting Data Standards I: Launching a Data Clean-Up Program

    3. 3. BACKGROUND• Conversion from Quixus to TMS in 2000• Growth and diversification of works• 65,000+ permanent collection objects, more than 15,000 loans, etc.• Data standards initiative began in 2009• TMS Style Guide published in April 2011• Photography cataloguing guidelines published in May 2011• Upgrade to TMS 2010 in October 2012
    4. 4. COMMENTS REGARDING APRIL 2011 TMS STYLE GUIDE• Format too theoretical (e.g., reiteration of CCO and Getty ULAN guidelines)• Not enough screenshots to show how data should be entered in TMS• Specialized exceptions to data entry not emphasized (e.g., Pre-Columbian and other “unknown” creators associated with specific cultures)• Not enough curatorial input• Partial implementation
    5. 5. CURRENT STATE OF DATA STANDARDS• Evolution of 59 classifications, many with less than 10 objects• Variant spellings and abbreviations of terms in the Medium field• Uneven usage of diacritical marks in titles of works and constituent names• Need to focus on tracking of changes to titles• Emphasis on usage of foreign language titles, including noting of sources for translations
    6. 6. CURRENT STATE OF DATA STANDARDS• Uneven approach to attributions for artists (e.g., Attributed to Rembrandt – separate constituent vs. use of prefix associated with the object)• Few guidelines regarding use of geography• Reliance on specially designed reports to retrieve data for many departments• Minimal clean-up on de-accessioned and loan objects is needed, for collections management purposes• Need for more user-friendly documentation regarding specific data standards and data entry procedures
    8. 8. FORMATION OF WEBSITE COMMITTEE IN MAY 2012 • 1 curator (chairperson) • 4 curators • 1 curatorial assistant • Collections manager • Data standards manager • Photographic and imaging services manager • Website lead from IT
    9. 9. PRESENTATION AT CURATORIAL MEETING OCTOBER 2012• TMS has been configured to suit MFAH needs and preferences• Incorrect data regarding objects and constituents may date back to outside vendor’s input of data into Quixis in 1988• Data must be entered in the appropriate fields in order to successfully search and extract data• Due to the configuration of TMS, it will sometimes be necessary to enter the same data in more than one field – e.g., edition in the Medium and Edition fields
    10. 10. PHASE I PHASE II OBJECT DESCRIPTIVE CATALOGUING CATALOGUING• Creator • Secondary• Object Culture classifications (Culture of Creator) • Subject• Medium • Objects depicted• Date• Title • People depicted• Place made • Place depicted
    11. 11. DATA STANDARDS REFERENCE SOURCES• Direct use of Getty on-line vocabularies – ULAN, AAT, TGN• Internal MFAH cataloguing memos.• Spreadsheets created with data collected from other museum websites – e.g., British Museum• Spreadsheets created to track specific issues based on AAT, Nomenclature 3.0• Idea that spreadsheets can expedite future development of collection-specific controlled vocabularies and thesauri
    13. 13. ADOPT USE OF “seating furniture” PER AAT
    14. 14. USE OF “seating furniture” BY OTHER MUSEUMS
    15. 15. GROUPINGS PER AAT TO EXPEDITE CLEAN-UP• Temporary use of Object Name/Work Type fieldto create “groupings” of like objects per AAT• Groupings will later be used in the developmentof secondary classifications
    16. 16. POSITIVE APPROACH TO TMS DATA CLEAN-UP• Data is not inaccurate; it simply has to be edited or reformatted for database consistency• Some clean-up more cosmetic and editorial – compound words, spelling, diacritical marks• Some clean-up will involve moving data from one field to another – e.g., Dynasty V from Period field to Dynasty field
    17. 17. POSITIVE APPROACH TO TMS DATA CLEAN-UP• Some changes can be made on the backend – e.g., compound words, correcting spelling• Groupings of “like” objects based on the Getty’s AAT will expedite data clean-up and ensure consistency – e.g., seating furniture, lighting devices• Minimal disruption to usage of TMS
    18. 18. Have you ever triedsearching in TMS for all examples of …?Chinese export porcelain
    19. 19. INITIAL SEARCH IN TMSCHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN – 189 OBJECTSCONSTITUENT AND OBJECT CULTURE FIELDS CONSTITUENT FIELD OBJECT CULTURE DROPDOWN LIST DROPDOWN LIST Unknown, Chinese Export Chinese Chinese Export Chinese Export Unknown maker Spanish; Chinese; Mexican Chinese Export, for Compagnie des Indes (New Company) Chinese Export (P.V. Mark) [No data for 65 works]
    20. 20. INITIAL SEARCH IN TMSCHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN – 189 OBJECTS DATA ENTRY OBSERVATIONS• Classification – Ceramics (188), Lighting Devices (1)• Geography – “place” used for only 24 objects, China (23) ; China, Asia (1)• Period – Famille Rose (1), Qianlong (1)• Style – No data• Dynasty – No data UNDERUTILIZATION OF FIELDS IN TMS
    21. 21. USE OF AAT“Chinese export” Canton
    22. 22. AFTER INITIAL SEARCH IN TMS … ARE THERE MORE OBJECTS? “CASTING A WIDER NET” – OTHER FIELDS• Description – canton ware (per AAT clue); other clues found include C.E.P., English market• Date – 1700 to 1900 range• Geography – Performed Advanced Query in Geography for “China” + Ceramics classification AFTER SECOND SEARCH … 550 OBJECTS
    23. 23. COMPARISON OF DATA IN TITLE FIELD – Selected original search results (dark grey) compared to results from second “casting a wider net” search (orange)Armorial Plate Dinner Plate SauceboatCharger Dish SaucerChinese Export Dinner Hot Water Dish Saucer (Teabowl)PlateChinese Export Platter Plate Saucer, Part of Tea SetCoffee Cup Plate, bearing the Arms of Saucer Dish the City of Puebla, MexicoCreamer Platter Side or Dessert PlateCup Pudding Dish TeabowlDeep Dish Sauce Ladle Tea BowlDeep Dish,, Part of Mixed Sauce Tureen on Fixed TeacupDinner Set Stand
    24. 24. NEED TO ADDRESS CONSTITUENT-RELATED ISSUES• Confusion of Object Culture with culture of where object was made• For example, data entry for Object Culture field associated with photographs of Helmut Newton – American, Australian, German, Italian (per where photographs were taken)• Solution – changed Object Culture to “Culture of Creator” to clarify field function
    26. 26. PHASE I TMS DATA STANDARDS GOALS• Eliminate need to perform complicated multiple searches to locate “all” examples of particular objects• Reduce uncertainty regarding whether or not “all” examples have been located• Data clean-up will make it easier to change or update information in the future regarding related objects
    27. 27. PHASE I TMS DATA STANDARDS GOALS• Consistent data entry will help expedite development of website content• Phase II of Data Standards will proceed more efficiently once data in the targeted fields are standardized
    28. 28. PHASE I – ROLE OF WEBSITE COMMITTEE• Discuss and approve proposed changes to data standards – e.g., elimination of periods in BC and AD• Sponsor “curatorial workshops” for all curators and curatorial assistants to explain new and revised data standards• Recommend changes to expedite clean- up• Prioritize classifications or groups of objects for clean-up
    29. 29. PHASE I – ROLE OF WEBSITE COMMITTEE• Monitor status of clean-up• Resolve problems associated with clean-up• Work on design of website• Departmental assistance regarding marketing of website
    30. 30. CURATORIAL WORKSHOPS#1 – Titles, Dates#2 – Creators, Culture, Geography#3 – Medium, State, Edition Ceramics Summit#4 – Classifications#5 – Physical Characteristics, Subjects Works on Paper/Photography Summit#6 – Exhibition History, Provenance
    31. 31. DATA CLEAN-UP STRATEGY• Division of clean-up tasks regarding selected TMS fields • Curatorial • Registration • Volunteers• Synergetic and collaborative approach – there will be departmental overlaps regarding objects• Tiered and phased approach to clean-up to maximize resources and meet website-related deadlines
    32. 32. PHASE I – DATA CLEAN-UP CURATORIAL FOCUS• Artists and Creators• Titles – Include original language title – Specify source and details regarding translation of original language title• Medium – Expand and simplify – Use preferred terms• Dates• Note questions on a log for follow-up by Registration staff.
    33. 33. PHASE I – DATA CLEAN-UP REGISTRATION FOCUS• Export of “before clean-up” data from TMS to Excel spreadsheets when possible should questions arise regarding data clean-up• Link new “Unknown” creator constituent umbrellas (e.g., Unknown African) to objects• Make changes to “known” constituents as needed• Change dates to reflect four digit year and the en dash (e.g., 1799–1805)• Move data from one field to another (Tang from Culture of Creator field to Period and Dynasty fields)
    34. 34. PHASE I – DATA CLEAN-UP REGISTRATION FOCUS• Populating and standardizing certain fields for collection management purposes – e.g., Edition, State, Portfolio• Any “blanket” changes requested by curatorial – e.g., changing “Place” option in Geography to “Made in” for specific groups of objects• Note questions on log for curatorial follow-up
    35. 35. PHASE I – VOLUNTEERS GEOGRAPHY• Move existing data to repurposed fields• Add data to TMS per the Getty’s TGN approach• Document data added to TMS in spreadsheet to create a future more formal scheme• Note questions on log for curatorial follow- up
    36. 36. PHASE I – CURRENT STATUS• Continuing dialogue with curators• Clean-up has begun• Website design has begun• Information presented at curatorial workshops is being re-purposed for an on-line table of contents with linked data standards information, departmental cataloguing preferences, and TMS screenshots• Geography volunteer program begins in May
    37. 37. PHASE II TMS DATA STANDARDS GOALS• Phase II can begin once Phase I is well underway• Reduce existing 59 TMS classifications to around 20 broad classifications for collections management “object count”• Create secondary classifications based on AAT to improve searching across the collection and aid in website development
    38. 38. PHASE II TMS DATA STANDARDS GOALS• Develop a controlled vocabulary for subject matter• More standardized approach to the Geography field (rather than simply “Place,” distinguish “Place made” or “Place depicted”)• Explore the possibility of using volunteers to focus on geography and descriptive cataloguing – e.g., places, subjects, themes
    39. 39. PHASE II – WEBSITE COMMITTEE• Assist with development of secondary classifications for TMS, which will function as search terms for the website• Assist with build-out of themes and subjects for TMS and website• Evaluate use of volunteer program for theme and subject information in TMS
    40. 40. Merrianne TimkoData Standards ManagerThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houstonmtimko@mfah.org