Configuring TMS for Natural History Collections


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Presented by Graeme Housego, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Collections Assistant
Jay Hoffman, Gallery Systems, President & CEO

How does TMS meet the varied and intricate needs of natural history collections? This session will demonstrate solutions by examining workflows developed at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology using Form Designer, Thesauri, Dataview Designer, and more.

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  • Museum has 11 permanent galleries and 3 special exhibition galleries that span a time from from 505 million years ago to about 10kyaOur collection contains about 150k individual specimens making up about 1 million fossils and is represented from a similar time frame with a small collection of recent specimens strictly for research.Museum is located in beautiful canadian badlandsCan walk out the parking lot and be surrounded by the badlands and fossilsLargest museum in canada devoted to palaeontology9 palaeontologists working at the institution and about 50 visiting researchers every year
  • Adopted as a government initiative to standardize all of the facilities in the province.Some of the original configurations were not conducive to the long term health of the dataWhen people leave, they take the info inside their heads with themInformation was not entered in a way that future employees could easily understand the detailsTook fields that were not being used and repurposed them, most notably for storage locations and elements (in the conservation module)These were not fully thought outThe thesaurus was full of lists rather than nodes and levels
  • Will talk about the first two as the last couple are still in their infancy, will show flex fields and customizing fields
  • Discuss how we used attributes in the pastNot linked, big giant lists in the thesaurusNot conducive to searching (have to add the “thesaurus x-ref type”)Leads to problems when taxa move levelsTime consuming to inputNot consistent, over time as classifications change, there is no easy way to do this to all recordsPossible for information to be input incorrectlySome information is in attributes that shouldn’t be (ie: specimen nature and type status)The new hierarchy authority allows for much faster input of infoTime consuming to set up, but much easier to make changes as they happenWe have about 2000 genera to input, those need to be cross referenced with at least two sources as some of these genera were named 50 years ago and may no longer be valid or they may have move into new parent taxa
  • Talk about the old location systemEasy to screw up, ie: spelling errorsToo many people entering data makes for non-uniformity, especially in the early days of TMSHad 3 diff fields, 1 for the room, 1 for the unit, 1 for remarksMoving into the location moduleShow screens of how we set up the different areasNumbering of cabinets and drawers
  • A lot of the problems we originally faced with TMS were due to a poor set up and we haven’t quite recovered from that yet.Examples include the way the thesaurus was set up and the tracking of storage locations and citationsAnd the quality of the data ported over to TMS from our old database DINODoesn’t have a built in thesauri of palaeontological taxonomyThe geography boxes for inputting coordinates could be made more like a credit card input so it stays in the same format regardless of who inputs the informationLocation Module does not quite fit well with our setup of storage locations i.e.: Can’t add multiple internal sites with the same constituent address and can’t skip subsites and go straight to units from site
  • When we were first discussing the content for our presentation, I said to Graeme that it’s possible not many people would attend, as there aren’t very many CI attendees from natural history museums.As we got further into it, I realized that many of the topics we are covering could apply to any collection, especially using tools to configure TMS for specific needs.Annie Van Assche is doing a session tomorrow that will cover many of the tools, or apps, that come with TMS. Our presentation today will focus on Natural History and show some examples specific to those types of collections.
  • Let’s first talk about some key concepts that you’ll see in the slides that follow:While we still refer to the Objects Module and an Object Record, most of the items being catalogued in natural history collections are often called specimens.As Graeme mentioned, Object Type has its own meaning in this context. For example, with a dinosaur skeleton, there may be an actual fossil specimen, as well as a mold and a cast. A museum may have one or all of these types, which can be related using standard TMS associative relationships.Taxonomy is a big aspect of natural history collections. Unlike thesaurus terms linked to objects as attributes, the full path of a term has meaning, such as the taxonomic ranks of class, genus and species.Geochronology and stratigraphy are important concepts and can be linked using the TMS thesaurus. Term ranks like Eon, Era, Period, Epoch and Age are used to define the hierarchies.While geography is important for all sorts of object, constituent, event, site and other record types, geography and specific latitude and longitude are much more carefully tracked. In the case of natural history specimens, the geo coordinates inidicate the location where a specimen was collected.This brings me to the final item on our list. Roles in natural history will generally be labels such as Discoverer, Collector, Identifier, Namer, etc.
  • Here is a list of the tools that we use to configure TMS and that we’ll look at today.We won’t spend much time on List Views and Data Views…
  • I’ve only listed a few standards here. A big area is standard taxonomies. There are multiple standards and we are exploring which ones we can provide as part of TMS. As Graeme said, it is a laborious undertaking to create a taxonomy. None are perfect or all encompassing, so we are also exploring how we can improve the creation and editorial process of thesauri and taxonomies. I show you some of that tomorrow.Other standards are specific schemas and terminology used to describe the various specialties in natural history collections.
  • Let’s take a look at some examples. I’ll shift between the presentation slides and live TMS examples.
  • Most of you know about Flex Forms Designer, but may not know how to best leverage this feature for your specific needs.Flex Forms can be used specific cataloguing needs and special projects.
  • I mentioned Complex Controls, which may not be obvious, so I thought I’d give you a list of some examples. When we look at the Forms Designer in a minute, you’ll get a better picture.
  • Let’s toggle over to the live app and I’ll show you how it works…
  • Query groups are used to make fields available for querying in Query Assistant and Advanced Query.You can use this for standard fields and Object Context Table fields.I’ll toggle over quickly to theDBConfig app and give you a quick demonstration of how to use Object Context Table fields and configure a query group.
  • Flip back to TMS and show the mineralogy record example of Flex Fields. Show where to access them.
  • Look at Thesaurus, look at Thes-Xref-TypesDo Search to show Species 2000Look at Taxonomic RanksLook at Authorship Field
  • Look quickly at Data Views and List Views
  • Configuring TMS for Natural History Collections

    1. 1. Configuring TMS forNatural History CollectionsCustomizing the database and UI using standard TMS toolsGraeme HousegoRoyal Tyrrell Museum of PalaeontologyJay HoffmanGallery Systems
    2. 2. Overview Part 1• Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology• Background on initial use of TMS• Plans for the future use of TMS• Hierarchy Control• Storage Locations• Request for Features/Improvements
    3. 3. Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
    4. 4. The Royal Tyrrell Museumsmandate is to be an internationallyrecognized public and scientificmuseum dedicated to thecollection, preservation,presentation, and interpretation ofpalaeontological history, withspecial reference to Albertas richfossil heritage.
    5. 5. Background• Adopted in 2001• Started with TMSv9• Repurposed unused fields to fit needs• Underutilized the features available
    6. 6. What the future holds • Hierarchy control • Location module • Bibliography module • Flex Fields • Customizing fields
    7. 7. Hierarchy Authority Control• Faster and less prone to errors• Allows for multiple hierarchies• Currently requires A LOT of work to set up
    8. 8. Storage Locations • Was tracked with three text fields • Moving towards using the Location module • Not quite perfect for our storage setup
    9. 9. Where TMS doesn’t shine• No built in taxonomies• Input of coordinates could be more “idiot proof”• Location module doesn’t quite work seamlessly with our storage setup
    10. 10. Overview Part 2• Key concepts• Tools• Standards• Examples
    11. 11. Key Concepts• Specimens• Object types• Taxonomy• Geochronology & stratigraphy• Geography & coordinates• Roles
    12. 12. Tools• Flex Forms Designer• Object Context Table• Flex Fields• Thesauri and Thes-Xref-Types• List Views and Data Views• Query Groups
    13. 13. Standards• Thesauri and other vocabularies – Species 2000/ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) – GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) – Paleobiology database – Mineralogy classifications• Darwin Core• Other standards
    14. 14. UsingFLEX FORMS DESIGNER
    15. 15. Flex Forms• Extend Objects module data entry• Can contain: – Fields, labels and complex controls – Thumbnails images – Data views – Menu bar and navigation control• Can be assigned as default form for a department• Can be used for project-specific data entry
    16. 16. Complex Controls• Constituents• Dimensions• Attributes• Geography• Text Entries• Status Flags• Hierarchy/Taxonomy• etc.
    17. 17. Flex Forms Designer
    18. 18. Assigning a Form to a Department
    19. 19. Flex Form - Botany Data view showing taxonomy and map of location where specimen was collected Hierarchy control showing taxonomy New fields added – these are all drop- down fields with controlled values
    20. 20. Flex Form - Paleontology Data view showing taxonomy and map of location where specimen was collected Hierarchy control showing taxonomy Second hierarchy control showing geochronology
    21. 21. Flex Form - Mineralogy
    23. 23. Object Context Table• Extends the base Objects record• Used on Flex Forms• Renamed as appropriate• Full security, querying, reporting, etc.• Many fields available: – 80 authority controlled fields/tables – 20 checkbox-type fields – 4 integer number fields – 10 ISO date fields – 10 text fields (unlimited length) – 10 short text fields (255 characters)
    24. 24. Object Context Fields
    25. 25. Query Groups
    26. 26. Flex Fields• Unlimited• Free-text, controlled, checkbox• Include login id, date stamp and remarks• Can be: – Grouped – Optional or always displayed – Repeating
    27. 27. ConfiguringTHESAURIAND THES-XREF-TYPES
    28. 28. Locating your Thex-Xref-Types
    29. 29. Creating a new Thes-Xref-Type for Taxonomy Must un-check “Multiple Select” for a Thes-Xref-Type to be eligible to work in Hierarchy Only check “Archive Deletes” if you need audit trail of taxonomy terms
    30. 30. ConfiguringDATA VIEWS &LIST VIEWS
    31. 31. Graeme HousegoCollections AssistantRoyal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontologygraeme.housego@gov.ab.caJay HoffmanCEOGallery