The SwissArmy KnifeApproachAdrian KingstonCollection Information Manager, Digital Assets & DevelopmentMuseum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa @adriankingstonMCN, Seattle, November 2012
How far can you push aCollection Management System in a changing world
Introduction: this talk (thedisclaimer) + Not exciting or glamorous (sorry) + No pretty pictures (boo) + No screen shots (yay) + May seem obvious, old fashioned, even slightly backwards + Others have a very different approach (and that’s cool) + Good time to be talking about this, & people are + See MCG discussion list + CollectionsTrust – expanding SPECTRUM, and Revisiting Collections, and Nick Poole’s vision for new contexts for musuem information + CollectionsTrust CMS software Vendor survey + Focussing on the CMS layer + Not going to name the system we use
Context: me & my team + Collections Information Team + Background in collections + We aren’t curators + We aren’t programmers + We try to work with, and between, collections staff, programmers, audience engagement and others + We are enablers and translators + We take a longer term view, and wider scope
Context: Te Papa + Not huge by international standards (2-3 million objects) we’re pretty diverse. + Art – Zoology + DNA analysis to repatriation + Possible impacts on our chosen path for managing data
A central repository for all collection related information and assets. Our experience.
What does it do: the usual, objects Describe and manage physical Collections + Art + Photography + Archives + NZ History + Pacific Cultures + Taonga Maori + Entomology + Marine mammals + Land Mammals + Birds + Fish + Insects + Plants + Etc
Taxon People Physical Physical Physical objects objects objects PlacesControlledVocabulary
What does it do: the usual,processes Manage and record collection processes + Acquisition + Deaccession + Lending & borrowing + Storage + Movements + Conservation + Damage + Tissue sampling + Authority control + Provenance + Taxonomic identification + Collection events + Species distribution + Record arguments
Rights Deaccession Loans Conservation Repatriation management Exhibition Acquisition Research Publications Narratives management Props Taxon Conceptual Crates, forms, objects frames People Physical Physical Collections Physical objects objects Online CIDOC CRM objects Places Exhibition sites Controlled Vocabulary Ourspace Digital objects Digital objects Digital objects Indigenous Digital Media description On floor interactives Digital Preservation OAI-PMH Receipts, reports, agreements Locations Movements Alcohol*NOT EVEN REMOTELY TO SCALE, OR TO BE CONSIDERED USEFUL Management
That’s a lot of stuff,and it looks pretty complex
Why centralise? + No more lost/duplicated/out-of-synch data (well, less) + No data silos + Transparency & accountability + Improved standards, processes + Consistent collection management + Consistent collection information management + About collections, not format + Strong but simple content framework + Single focus for data preservation + 1 system to support, and sustain + 1 system to train in, learn to use + Efficient content creation, access & publication + Creates appropriate ownership of content creation
Why: the “other” reasons + Full control. We manage the platform and the development resource + Its what we know how to do + Some decisions “more political than technical”: does that apply to us?
Sure, but there’s problems right? + Being an advocate for centralisation & standards is not always welcomed + Change is constant, we can’t always react as quickly as we would like + Sometimes workarounds become semi-permanent + We’ve developed a fair bit, and people always want MOAR + The system use has grown, but the team hasn’t
Sector changes + Acknowledging importance of opening up & letting go, sharing authority, encouraging re-use + Alignment of content creation processes, multiple channels + Access: inside, outside, everywhere + New forms of Publishing + Linked data + New forms of collecting + Changing perspectives on collections + Stories more important than ever All great stuff, but it means there is more to manage
Intangible Heritage + No longer just about collecting static, physical objects + Similar issues with “collecting contemporary” + Most will probably be digital + Tech, games, communication, dance, language, stories, rituals, … “Conceptual” description model in place Not separate systems for separate formats Rights management includes indigenous rights Digital description and management Similar to born digital art works? Similar to analogue media? × Future representation?
Digital Assets & Preservation + Preservation not yet a big consideration for DAMS * + Digital collection items should be managed by the collection system + In some cases digitised collections (e.g. obsolete video) may become collection items + This is oversimplified, but… Basic DAM functionality, item description Single authoritative source, clear relationships Object info is kept on object, image info kept with image Repositories, layers of access Conservation module for preservation actions × Open Archival Information System OAIS model- SIPs, AIPs & DIPs × Integrated tools for fixity, format validation and analysis Though this may be chaging See http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2012/10/dams-vs-lams-its-on/ × Needs refinement for more efficient workflows
Narrative + Museums aren’t just a repository of objects, we’re a generator of knowledge, stories etc. + Our stories and theirs Our stories - Been doing this for a while now, easy and efficient publishing Research and stories are managed in relation to the other information × The more we use it, the more we want × Very template driven × Not very flexible in terms of layout × Need to learn from other forms of tech × Their stories - need ingest from web
User generated/contributed content + Co-created, user generated, user contributed + Comments, downloads, stories, dis/likes, new works, images, video + Could be used to collect low- or high-tech interaction + Users expect to interact more, shouldn’t we put effort into preserving that Conceptual framework allows for stories, digital object Rights management × Ingest from web × User expectation and museum literacy × Our expectation, what is useful/important?
Object “use” + Already record that collections have been used in exhibitions, loans etc., but what about all the other uses? + Need to surface this to management, but I think more importantly, to the rest of staff, particularly curators Google analytics, Addthis, social media tools Include ease of use indicators, eg open licences, images, quality of data × Need to pull it all together, and keep a history × Use as targets, need to change how/what we measure to be useful
Should we continue with a single system, or should welook at other systems & tools to address the new issues
A few alternatives + Digital Asset Management Systems + Customer Relationship Management + Wordpress + Disqus + Access database (hehe) + Drupal + Someone else’s system + SharePoint + Develop new from scratch in xyz + Facebook + Plus many, many more
And there’s problems for singlesystem + Blurring boundaries with traditional museum business and standard business, e.g. EDRMS + Where does the “museum” start and stop? HR? Finance? Payroll? + Huge, complex systems difficult to maintain + Collection Management Systems are not sexy + Lots of work has gone into these other dedicated systems + A multi-system approach linked with persistent identifiers and a discovery layer can work
Other ways of putting it + Eggs - Basket + Jack of all trades. Master of none. + Swiss army knife: everything you need, except for when you need a crowbar. Or glue. Or a clock. Or … + When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail* *thanks Mia!
However, I (personally) believe: + These new concepts will soon become core museum activities + Siloed system ownership can turn political, multiple gate keepers + Linked data becoming more important, easier to build natively first? + Museums need to think about long term & sustainability of information + Multiple systems can be difficult to integrate + Some institutions don’t have the resource to manage/integrate multiple systems + Things to learn from other forms of tech though, e.g. modular approach + We need the vendors, but we need to drive them + As an sector we should be moving in the same direction + Need standards and guidelines for new processes
An aside: roles and responsibilities + Where do vendors fit? Are they evil? We pay for developments, vendor resells them, but sector benefits + Open source vs vendors? No different in this argument + Technology isn’t necessarily the problem, sometimes is a change of understanding, roles, and processes + Required skills are changing, possibility not as fast as the tech + Confusion over “expertise” required + Need to get some digital ownership back to curators, educators etc.
Summary + I don’t have a concrete answer + Collections Systems can’t do everything, but need to evolve to do as much as possible to work with collections & audiences in the digital age + These new processes will soon become core museum activities + There’s a huge variety of new types of content we’re going to have to manage + Efficiency, sustainability are key issues + Single point of information management means single point for preservation & access + Really easy to not see Collection Systems as glamorous, and use new flash tools instead + Need standards and guidelines for new processes + As an sector we should be moving in the same direction