August 11, 2011

Regional museums in an online future

Getting it into the ether

We distributed draft information sheets on some of the essentials — developing web- sites with little money, social media, systems, standards and other topics. Ingrid Mason, from the Collections Australia Network, and Joy Suliman, from the Powerhouse Museum‘s ThinkSpace, led us through some of the fundamentals of creating sites and using social media. The branch will be using the sheets and suggestions at the conference, among other sources, in developing printed and online publications and as touchstones for future workshops.

To get a better understanding of online approaches by museums in New South Wales, we invited a few colleagues to talk to us about their experiences.

Maree Clutterbuck, Collections Manager, Sydney University Museums, outlined the development of a more integrated approach to managing cataloguing records in the 3 public museums and 50 smaller department museums at the oldest university in Australia ( The museums purchased KE EMu in 2006 to replace a number of separate systems. Cataloguing policy questions revolved around the fact that the museums primarily serve university staff and students rather than the general public. Opening access to some materials called for circumspection. These questions and data migration issues have now been resolved and the catalogue is expected to be available on the museums‘ website soon.

Geoff Barker has been working on a total asset management (TAM) project at the Powerhouse Museum (www.powerhouse The museum has an international reputation for innovative use of technology. Its catalogue is a richly layered presentation of catalogue records and images of museum objects, comple- mented with links to user tags, related subjects, similar objects, auto-generated tags and sources such as Wikipedia, WorldCat records and the Library of Congress Authority File.

The TAM project is an externally funded project which is working on collections and objects whose current storage, age, and state of documentation is exposing them to risk. As well as addressing this primary objective, Geoff has been exploring options for improving the quality of data and enhancing the online experience. As better elements — significance state- ments, themes, images, tags and links — are generated, these are harvested automatically monthly from KE EMu database into the museum‘s server. This has significantly improved searching. It has also highlighted different practices of different depart- ments within the museum — such as the archive. This in turn may lead to breaking down some of the walls between them..

Other notable online strategies by the museum include use of Flickr to publish images and uploading content to other government projects—such as About New South Wales (about. Its Australian Dress Register (www.powerhouse is expected to be launched as a public site this year. The museum's partner- ships on the Sydney Sidetracks web- site ( sidetracks/) and the Dictionary of Sydney (www.dictionaryofsydney. org/) are indications of wider collaboration.

Source: Museum Matters Vol 19 no 1 July 2010

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