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Create once, publish everywhere -


C.O.P.E. is a concept coined within National Public Radio as part of their new digital content strategy. How could this concept be applied to museum collection to promote better reuse of collection …

C.O.P.E. is a concept coined within National Public Radio as part of their new digital content strategy. How could this concept be applied to museum collection to promote better reuse of collection content. What problems are there with publishing museum collection content to many locations?

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  • I work in a field which was historically a mostly internal museum process: collectors documenting their collections and using that information to manage their collections. We now want to share that information and I want to talk today about approaches for doing this.
  • The concept of Create Once, Publish Everywhere was devised as part of National Public Radio’s digital content strategy. They wanted to change the way they recorded and shared information so that content could be reused as much and as easily as possible.
  • The key concept is separating the creation and storage of digital content from how it will be delivered or presented. There are important lessons here for the museum sector, as we manage similarly rich and complex data and are increasingly expected to present that information in multiple locations and formats. The elements of information that NPR records about one news article are not so different from a museum catalogue record.
  • C.O.P.E. relies on identifying small nuggets of data that can be captured in a consistent format. For museums, one important piece is the museum catalogue record which holds key information about each object in their collection. It’s information that you should already have in great detail and it’s information for which there is demand outside of your organisation.
  • The C.O.P.E. concept is only workable if your content is stored in a structured way. A collections management system will help you store cataloguing data as individual pieces of information which can be exported or published to other systems for a range of uses. Other museum digital content might be stored in additional systems, such a web content management system for blog posts or calendar events.
  • We can see here a typical example of museum collection content being reused. The original collection record has been published to a museum website, the museum has then partnered with the Trove website which represents many Australian cultural organisations, and the same collection record ends up in the Trove website in a different layout.
  • This is what I call the online collections hamburger. At its base is the content: structured information and digital files about your collection. You need to consider which channels you will publish content to, how will you respond to each audience and how will the content be reused. You need to consider how these channels and the reuse of information will affect the presentation of the content and try to create content that can be published to multiple locations without excessive manual re-work.
  • Access to web content is from an increasingly wide range of devices. Responsive design websites dynamically change their layout according to the device that is accessing the page. Here we see examples of the Australian Museum’s topic page about Spiders in different screen sizes. This is one example of how the same content might be presented in different ways.
  • One organisation looking at how they reuse content is NZ’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage. They recognise that each channel they publish to may have a different focus and a different audience, but they are working to create nuggets of data that can be reused. For example, audio clips that have been created are used in their MyTours app and are separately available through iTunes. Auckland Museum have also incorporated the C.O.P.E. concept into their new digital strategy.
  • The most basic information you could share about an object is a short name or title for what it is, a description, an image, video or audio clip to go with it, and a web address for where the authoritative record of the object can be accessed. This already opens up options for publishing basic details of the object to multiple destinations with many of those destinations giving you the chance to link back to a more detailed public record.
  • One example is Cooper-Hewitt’s slightly tongue-in-cheek “Curatorial Poetry” Tumblr. An automated program posts the descriptions of random objects every two hours, highlighting the often poetic style of the original curatorial descriptions. Each object links back to the record in Cooper-Hewitt’s online collection website.
  • Having your object records published to the web on permanent pages give you options for reusing this content. The National Library in New Zealand came up with the idea of a Twitter #tbreaktweets hashtag. Each day they post a link through to an item from the collection, providing a interesting break in someone else’s day.
  • Original concept of C.O.P.E.: Structured data stored in collections management, digital asset management and content management systems is shared to multiple presentation layers via programming interfaces. However, C.O.P.E. is useful for museums not just for automated reuse of content. Whenever content is created is it worth considering whether the style and structure allows it to be reused in the future, both automatically and manually.
  • For museums, one of the key standards that allows sharing of data at present is the Dublin Core standard. This includes the basic fields needed to describe a resource, like a physical object in your museum. Here we see a museum record for a fork handle and the mapping of this record to Dublin Core fields for title, subject, description and so on.
  • Standards like this make aggregation possible. Aggregation is the copying of data from many contributor websites into a single site. Here we see a set of records on one museum’s site with the same collection automatically copied periodically into Trove’s database where a different audience can discover it.
  • Unfortunately, there are problems to overcome. The basic description of the object is easier to share. The more detailed catalogue record is where things get difficult. Most museum catalogue data was created for use by staff, not for different audiences on the Internet.
  • One challenge with sharing collections data is that the information is both complex and diverse. Natural history catalogue records for example don’t fit well with the Dublin Core standard, so records can lose important data when copied to sites relying on this standard.
  • There are many overlapping standard terminology lists, plus museum-specific lists, for describing objects. This limits some of the potential of sites containing content published from many contributors. Object tagging, mapping terms from one thesaurus to another, and building search interfaces that understand synonyms for terms all help, but there is still a lot of work to do .
  • Another problem is that the content required for different devices and audiences may not be the same. Museums often don’t have the resources to create variations of catalogue records for different audiences.
  • Museums also need to be wary of copyright. Published data should be accompanied by a rights statement so the users know what they are allowed to do with the content.
  • Creating content once and publishing it everywhere has a lot of potential for museums. I want to look briefly at some of the options the future holds.
  • Where C.O.P.E. has particular merit for museums is the managing of contextual descriptions. For many museums rich higher level descriptions including stories about the collection, exhibition wall labels and collection level descriptions, are not stored and managed to allow them to be accessed easily in the future. Huge effort goes into creating these – we need to be managing these so that there are more opportunities to reuse and share these descriptions
  • More detailed alternatives to the Dublin Core standard are now available. The Component Reference Model describes the concepts and relationships used in cultural heritage documentation, not just the basic object information. British Museum have made their data available using the CRM standard.
  • The Lightweight Information Describing Objects standard builds upon several existing museum standards. Europeana is one of the biggest projects to get behind the LIDO standard. This is a drive to pull in more detailed, well-structured records into the Europeana database.
  • Linked data is a set of best practices for publishing and connecting structured data on the web. Data can still live on your own website but the data includes links between individual pieces of information, both in your own records and on other sites. Here we see the work that the American Art Museum is doing to reconcile their artist records with Wikipedia artist pages. It involves manual work to verify possible matches but creates a link to Wikipedia’s often more detailed artist biographical information.
  • Aggregation sites are also working to reconcile disparate data. DigitalNZ maps a huge variety of format, object type and usage terms from contributors into a simple set of options for the end users. For example, various categories of art are all flagged so that they all appear under the Artwork option.
  • C.O.P.E. gets organisations thinking about opportunities for their content to be reused. It makes the most of the work that the goes into creating the content so that it can be used in different projects. Collection records hold complex data and are more difficult to reuse, but there are new opportunities to link these records to resources outside of the museum sector, like Wikipedia, and there are opportunities for sharing the stories about our collections in more structured ways.
  • You should consider specific cases where you want your museum records to be reused. For example, in Google results or in an aggregation site. Deciding on the optimal way for the content to appear in another place takes time and may require compromises. However, the demand for content to be in many places won’t go away, so you need to be thinking about this.
  • When cataloguing objects you need to remember that that the information is no longer going to be confined within the museum. As a minimum you need descriptions of the objects that make sense to your typical visitor covering details like why the object is significant.
  • Your own website is likely to have more details about the collection. Link back to these pages from other sites, particularly social media, when you can. Users can then get to more contextual information and statements on copyright. Remember: Use the source Luke!
  • We also have better tools now for studying what content is getting the most interest. This helps you choose content that you might republish because it has new relevance to events happening right now.
  • Creating content takes a lot of time and care. We need to find ways to get the most value out of that effort.
  • Your communities help fund your museums. Providing easy access for your communities to find, use and share collections information is now an essential service. The C.O.P.E. concept helps shape how you provide this service.


  • 1. Paul Rowe, CEO, Vernon SystemsMuseums Australia Conference, 19 May 2013Create once, publish everywhereApproaches for reusing collection information online
  • 2. C.O.P.E.Coined in a blog post by DanielJacobson, Director of ApplicationDevelopment for National PublicRadio in the US
  • 3. A National Public Radio news story
  • 4. Object records are nuggets of digital content
  • 5. Manage the digital content
  • 6. Presentation agnostic
  • 7. Responsive design
  • 8. Design for flexibility Oliver, Ministry of Culture & Heritage, NZ
  • 9. Minimal object detailsTitleDescriptionMediaWeb addressSewing bag and contentsSewing bag and contents; a mottled blue, felt bag withtwo short, plaited felt handles. Each side of the bag isdecorated with applied felt flowers in pink and yellow.The bag is dated 1938. The bag contains many scrapsof fabric; a plastic shoe horn; a matchbox; a babysshoe and socks;
  • 10.
  • 11. Sharing onsocial sites
  • 12. Information flow
  • 13. Dublin Core
  • 14. Aggregation
  • 15. Can C.O.P.E. cope?
  • 16. Squishing the data
  • 17. TV set = Television =Telecommunication receiver
  • 18. Local content for local people
  • 19. Clearly mark the licence that applies toeach piece of content
  • 20. The future
  • 21. Managing contextual descriptions
  • 22. CIDOC CRM
  • 23. LIDO
  • 24. Linked open data American Art MuseumLinking up cataloguing data to externalsources. E.g. DBpedia / Wikipedia
  • 25. Standard interfaces to varieddata
  • 26. Benefits and tipsA bigger audience and a more efficient use ofstaff time for content creation.
  • 27. “Get your content ready to goanywhere because it’s going togo everywhere.”Brad Frost, 2011
  • 28. Significancestatements
  • 29. Use the source Luke!
  • 30. Metrics
  • 31. "Content doesn’t just appear magically out ofthin air with a wave of a magic social fairywand." - Tara Hunt, Social Web Strategy© Disney / Gif made by
  • 32. Thank youPaul RoweVernon Systems@armchair_caver