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MW2010: Richard Morgan, How to manage and build a web collections search project in a museum

A presentation from Museums and the Web 2010.

Large, complex, technical projects which require input from many stakeholders in a large, complex, bureaucratic organisation are difficult to run and even more difficult to keep to budget and schedule.

In September 2009, the V&A released a beta version of its new collections search site. More than one million catalogue records are now available on-line, and the site boasts a beautiful design, powerful faceting and cross-linking, a fast, scalable search and an API.

We had to take brave strategic technical decisions and adopt new, more agile working practices to deliver the project. The purpose of the paper is to describe the processes we went through, how we took the decisions we did, and how we persuaded stakeholders of the merits of our approaches.

The paper is intended to be far more than just a description of what we did and how we did it. It presents techniques for project management, technical strategies, and frameworks for making technology decisions which will be generalized and could be applied in any museum. It presents practical and pragmatic methods which work in the reality of a museum context and can achieve a radical shift in culture and practice without the need for top-down organisational change.

Session: Collections: Tag / Search / Deploy - Part 2 [access]

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MW2010: Richard Morgan, How to manage and build a web collections search project in a museum

  1. 1. How to manage and build a web collections search project in a museum Richard Morgan, Victoria and Albert Museum @rmorg Thursday 15 April 2010
  2. 2. What is Search the Collections? <ul><ul><li>http://collections.vam.ac.uk </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A working database with over 1 million records containing every catalogue record in the V&A's Collections Information System </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>~165,000 images where those out of copyright available to the public as high-resolution downloads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Openness </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. A summary <ul><ul><li>Make the project like projects your museum is good at </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be realistic to the point of pessimism but positive – what can you do today? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Think about when you are building a thing and when you are building operational capacity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dependencies are the worst enemy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Iterate to create confidence </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Don't use things that don't exist
  5. 5. You work in a museum. It's ok. It's not your fault.
  6. 6. Organisational realities: big projects
  7. 7. Organisational realities: the demand for service
  8. 8. Organisational realities: the place of the web in the organisation
  9. 9. What we did: breaking into smaller, parallel projects
  10. 10. What we did: create a focus for iterative production
  11. 11. How we did it: agile in parts
  12. 12. How we did it: resourcing
  13. 13. How we did it: loosely coupled technical architecture <ul><ul><li>Jquery + Symfony + Drupal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Django + Sphinx + MySQL </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>XML exports from Collections Information System </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Downloading of images from Digital Asset Management System </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scalable virtual server infrastructure </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The outcome: what we did next <ul><ul><li>Google </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Crowdsourcing </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The outcome: what we learned <ul><ul><li>The power of agility and production </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The limits of agility and production </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. A summary <ul><ul><li>Make the project like projects your museum is good at </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be realistic to the point of pessimism but positive – what can you do today? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Think about when you are building a thing and when you are building operational capacity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Iterate to create confidence </li></ul></ul>

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  • Tunsch

    Jun. 14, 2010
  • bhattiaj

    Jul. 22, 2013
  • MonaNouman

    Nov. 6, 2019

A presentation from Museums and the Web 2010. Large, complex, technical projects which require input from many stakeholders in a large, complex, bureaucratic organisation are difficult to run and even more difficult to keep to budget and schedule. In September 2009, the V&A released a beta version of its new collections search site. More than one million catalogue records are now available on-line, and the site boasts a beautiful design, powerful faceting and cross-linking, a fast, scalable search and an API. We had to take brave strategic technical decisions and adopt new, more agile working practices to deliver the project. The purpose of the paper is to describe the processes we went through, how we took the decisions we did, and how we persuaded stakeholders of the merits of our approaches. The paper is intended to be far more than just a description of what we did and how we did it. It presents techniques for project management, technical strategies, and frameworks for making technology decisions which will be generalized and could be applied in any museum. It presents practical and pragmatic methods which work in the reality of a museum context and can achieve a radical shift in culture and practice without the need for top-down organisational change. Session: Collections: Tag / Search / Deploy - Part 2 [access]

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