2 thoughts on “The eternal sunshine of the spotless museum collection

  1. The stories behind the objects are a vital part of the collection. Capturing these stories is challenging. Compared to the typical basic facts on a catalogue record, these stories take a lot more effort to document, they are more contentious, and they are more difficult to capture in way that allows the content to be re-used in different ways.

    Wikipedia succeeds in part because of full editing history and discussion page that accompanies each article. It would be challenging for a museum catalogue record to have the same level of openness, but it is a good goal. Museums may be bound by donor agreements that prevent them publishing some information, some will have reservations about publishing information that has since been corrected or amended, and the data will be more challenging to structure and present online. I’m not aware of any museums publishing both historical and current versions of cataloguing records.

    I commented in this post, http://lod-lam.net/summit/2011/12/05/the-web-of-assertions/ , that linked open data may give us a better way of describing ‘grey data’ – information that is not hard and fast facts, but instead is a series of assertions made with different degrees of authority.

  2. Brooklyn Museum goes a bit further than most, with public tags clearly distinguished from in-house tags, an indication as to how complete the record is and the comments separated into the ‘Talk’ page on the right. e.g. http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4225/Female_Figure

    The Now & Then website built for Mallala, South Australia uses Media Wiki, so all the pages (including objects/things) have the full editing history available. e.g. http://mallala.nowandthen.net.au/index.php?title=Fire_Engine . This may be just a bonus from using Media Wiki, rather than a design decision.

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