The Museum and the Researcher in the information age: problem – solution – bonus


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2009 presentation by Sally Curry, Research Information Network's Library Collaboration Programme Manager

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The Museum and the Researcher in the information age: problem – solution – bonus

  1. 1. The Museum and the Researcher in the information age: problem – solution – bonus MA conference 2009 Sally Curry – Research Information Network [email_address]
  2. 2. The Museum and the Researcher <ul><li>Research Information Network (RIN) </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Setting </li></ul><ul><li>The Problem </li></ul><ul><li>What researchers really, really want </li></ul><ul><li>Solutions: Doing more with less – or with different tools and facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Bonus: a win, win, win situation (for researchers, for museums and for UK research) </li></ul>
  3. 3. RIN – Research Information Network <ul><li>Support effective information strategies and practices for the UK research community </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct research and provide guidance </li></ul><ul><li>Focus: all subject areas </li></ul><ul><li>Report: Discovering physical objects: meeting researchers’ needs </li></ul><ul><li>The study of objects and artefacts is as important as ever </li></ul>
  4. 4. The traditional Museum <ul><li>Museums’ traditional role - </li></ul><ul><li>Private collections of scholars and gentlemen </li></ul><ul><li>Acquisition, conservation, curation and exhibition of objects and artefacts </li></ul><ul><li>Research and scholarship was of primary importance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Researchers: Museums’ principal users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Curators: scholars in their chosen fields </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. The Museum today <ul><li>Museums are now increasingly focussed on broadening their user base </li></ul><ul><li>Focus now on increasing footfall and access to the wider community </li></ul><ul><li>The era of the scholar curator is dwindling in many museums, new skills are valued </li></ul><ul><li>Funding often at a low level </li></ul><ul><li>Staff numbers are decreasing </li></ul>
  6. 6. The DCMS view of the museum <ul><li>“ Ensuring that children have the opportunity to enjoy a vibrant cultural and sporting life </li></ul><ul><li>Opening institutions to the widest possible cross section of people </li></ul><ul><li>Ensuring that the creative, leisure and tourist industries provide the maximum possible benefit to the economy </li></ul><ul><li>Ensuring our museums and galleries are exciting, modern and provide real value for money” </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Researcher and the Museum <ul><li>The study of objects and artefacts is just as important as it ever was </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers are a small proportion of the museum audience </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers are harder to support than schools and families(?) </li></ul><ul><li>The benefits they bring may be harder to capture and slower in coming </li></ul>
  8. 8. What researchers really, really want <ul><li>Catalogues/online databases (Most researchers are unaware of online catalogues that have already been developed) </li></ul><ul><li>Online information to enable them to plan their visits to museums </li></ul><ul><li>Consistency in arrangements for direct access to museum objects </li></ul><ul><li>Contact with curatorial staff </li></ul>
  9. 9. Researcher needs and Solutions (1) <ul><li>Provision of online access information for researchers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But this will lead to a deluge of requests… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple additional information on your website </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Capturing requests from researchers to improve the information provided </li></ul></ul>
  10. 11. Wiltshire Heritage Museum Researcher’s Charter <ul><li>Contacting the Museum </li></ul><ul><li>Making an appointment and length of notice required Curatorial staff time available </li></ul><ul><li>Equipment and facilities available </li></ul><ul><li>Restrictions on use of objects including destructive analysis and sampling </li></ul><ul><li>Loan arrangements </li></ul><ul><li>Access to stored objects </li></ul><ul><li>Access to related documentation </li></ul><ul><li>Facilities to browse collections </li></ul><ul><li>Information researchers are expected to provide </li></ul><ul><li>Handling restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>Photography </li></ul><ul><li>Copy of research requested </li></ul>
  11. 12. Response to Researcher’s Charter <ul><li>  &quot;I found it very useful. A thorough description of policies, practices and facilities and quite the most comprehensive I've encountered from a museum.&quot; </li></ul>
  12. 13. Researcher’s needs and Solutions (2) <ul><li>Provision of access to museum records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They are incomplete </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Comprehensiveness coverage more important than perfection in each record </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Allow researchers to add to and amend the content of the records </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They contain sensitive information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Most systems allow the suppression of sensitive data </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 17. Man and schoolboys outside F.J. Palmer & Sons department store
  14. 23. East Lothian Museums Photostream
  15. 24. Round up: helping researchers to help your museum <ul><li>Provide clear and open policies on access for researchers </li></ul><ul><li>Get catalogue records online quickly </li></ul><ul><li>Establish systems to allow researchers to enhance records and also how to handling such input </li></ul><ul><li>National funders should work to support projects to develop and enhance high-quality online catalogues </li></ul>
  16. 25. Links from the presentation <ul><li>RIN </li></ul><ul><li>Discovering physical objects – RIN website and search for ‘Discovering objects’ </li></ul><ul><li>DCMS: </li></ul><ul><li>Wiltshire Heritage Researchers’ Charter: </li></ul><ul><li>Powerhouse Museum on Flickr : / </li></ul><ul><li>Smithsonian on Flickr: / </li></ul><ul><li>National Maritime Museums on Flickr: </li></ul><ul><li>East Lothian Museums: </li></ul>