I was just checking out the recent postings by Seb Chan on his fresh + new(er) blog, and saw a link to the Museum Metadata Exchange, a project that started in mid-2010 (and which my friend Heath Killen has apparently been working on). The project has been “designed to harvest collection level descriptions from a number of major museums and the National Film and Sound Archive and to supply that data in a standardised format to the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC).”
One of the commenter’s about Seb’s post writes:
The concept of collection-level description by and large tends to be foreign to large swaths of the museum community, whereas of course it’s a major strategy in archives. MARC collection-level records (or rudimentary EAD finding aids) can let the public know that an archive has a large collection of something, even if it hasn’t been described at a deeper level, let alone digitized. I was involved in an effort in the natural history community to create a standard for collection level descriptions (http://www.tdwg.org/activities… and at the Smithsonian, the Field Book Project has incorporated the standard into their approach (http://libreas.eu/ausgabe18/te… Don’t know of too many other projects using collection level descriptions for museum content…
This is one of the interesting implications I am curious about for changing practices within the online museum collection. Are museums now using a more archival approach to collections online as a way to make them more accessible/usable/findable to non-specialist users? Gunther’s comment that collection-level description is a major strategy in archives that we can now see being deployed in projects such as the Museum Metadata Exchange would suggest that this is a possibility.
And so I wonder whether museum collections, although created under different curatorial premises to archives, are now moving towards a more archival approach to online collection management, particularly given that the Internet is itself essentially a giant archive? And if so, is this a legitimate tactic for opening collection up more effectively to non-experts?