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Museum Documentation Standards in the International Community. Nick Poole, CEO, Collections Trust. Introducing the Collections Trust. Support museums, archives, libraries and galleries in unlocking the potential of their collections, by: Providing know-how Developing and promoting excellence

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Museum Documentation Standards in the International Community

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Museum Documentation Standards in the International Community

Nick Poole, CEO, Collections Trust

Introducing the Collections Trust

  • Support museums, archives, libraries and galleries in unlocking the potential of their collections, by:

    • Providing know-how

    • Developing and promoting excellence

    • Challenging existing practices

    • Pioneering new ideas

    • Bringing experts together

Our work

  • 5 Programmes

    • OpenCulture

    • Collections Link

    • Culture Grid

    • Excellence in Collections

    • International

Excellence in Collections

  • A common framework to connect Collections standards to:

    • End-user value and impact

    • Organisational resilience

    • Cost-effectiveness

    • Sustainable collections development

Key challenges for museums…

1. Maximising participation

2. Treating


as an asset…

3. Supporting collaboration & shared services…

4. Supporting long-term planning

5. Managing environmental impact…

6. Promoting greater mobility & use of collections

7. Supporting new forms of engagement

8. Delivering compelling narrative…

9. Developing sustainable approaches to risk

10. Managing cost

Key challenges for Museums

  • Maximising user engagement

  • Ensuring knowledge is managed and used as an asset

  • Supporting collaboration and shared services

  • Supporting long-term strategic development and planning

  • Managing environmental impact

  • Promoting greater use and mobility of collections

  • Supporting new modes of user engagement (mobile, social)

  • Delivering re-purposable content and narrative

  • Developing sustainable approaches to risk

  • Balancing costs and improving efficiency

    To be effective, and to deliver value, Documentation has to support and enable these organisational outcomes for your museum.

How can international Documentation standards support these organisational needs?

What have we got so far…?

CIDOC Statement of Principles

  • Effective Documentation should facilitate

    • Collections Policies

    • Collections Care and Accountability

    • Collections Access, Interpretation and Use

    • Collections Research

  • The Museum should employ staff with appropriate experience of Documentation procedures, and use appropriate standards

  • The Museum systems should provide access to the Collections



  • Industry standard for Documentation procedures & information

  • Designed to support the rationalisation & improvement of Collections processes in your museum

  • Developed via the Collections Link Standards Wiki – & supported by CG Vocab Bank –

  • Developed in partnership with KE & other SPECTRUM Partners

  • Emphasis on SPECTRUM as a procedural standard, supported by a framework of information/structural standards/protocols

Description & Interchange



CIDOC Core Data Standard for Sites and Monuments

CIDOC Core Data Standard for Archaeological Objects


Europeana Data Model


Advantages: lightweight, portable

Disadvantages: purpose-specific, niche limits critical-mass

Perpetual issue of lossy conversion – you can go from a rich schema to a simple one, but not the other way

Meta-standards for interoperability

The challenge is to enable machine-to-machine processing of data so that it can flow seamlessly and incrementally between systems and contexts

When my KE Emu museum loans an object to a non-KE user, the object may travel but the continuity of Documentation is broken

Cross-mapping is labour-intensive and semantically and structurally inconsistent (preparing a data source for use over OAI PMH more art than science)

CIDOC CRM provides a systematic approach to expressing different documentation systems in a semantically and structurally-consistent way – but does the effort justify the payoff, and is the payoff significantly better than delivering data as RDF.

Linked Data

Semantic data and open API seem to offer a solution to the delivery of machine-readable data

Context-aware information, and self-documenting schemata for museum data offers the potential for dynamic and emergent Collections Management and Documentation systems

BUT the openness of the technology invites non-standard implementation

There is a risk that, without significant advances in the automated generation of metadata, ‘semantification’ will aggravate the resource challenge of Documentation.


SPECTRUM is an international open standard, used in more than 7,500 museums and galleries and 40 countries worldwide

Licensed to national partners to translate and to localise (to reflect local variations in policy, practice and law)

Current translations in the Netherlands, Flanders and Germany

Active communities in Sweden, Portugal, Greece, France, Switzerland

Arabic & Chinese translations planned

An international community of practitioners


14 Partners worldwide representing an installed user base of some 30,000 institutions

Working together to develop a common vision of International Documentation standards and practice

A vision that is essentially focussed on delivering operational efficiency and user value

Access Compliance

Functional Compliance

Informational Compliance

Procedural Compliance

Europeana INSIDE

  • EU-funded project to integrate tools into your system to reduce the structural, financial, strategic, legal and operational barriers to participation in open content services.

  • Need to change the balance from ‘it’s too hard’/’I’ll do it next year’/’I’ll do it when my Documentation is complete’ to ‘we’re doing it’ (and the sky hasn’t yet fallen on our heads…)

    • Drag and drop one-time-only data mapping

    • Granular access/use/rights management

    • Object/collection/institution level control (send it there, don’t send it there)

    • Tracking secondary & tertiary reuse

    • Re-ingesting enriched metadata into systems


  • Planning the 4-5 year Development Path for SPECTRUM

  • Specific requirements include:


    • SPECTRUM 4.0 Schema

    • Digitisation & Digital Photography

    • Digital Asset Management

    • Digital Rights Management

    • Digital Preservation

    • BPMN Workflows & automated systems

    • User-generated content

    • Narrative/re-use

    • Agile rights and usage metadata

What are we missing…?

Missing elements

Clear user-focussed value proposition for investment in Documentation

Persistent Unique Identification for Digital artefacts

Stable methodologies for capturing and managing UGC

Lightweight standards/protocols for RFID & microformats

Common application profiles for data exchange (eg. OAI PMH)

Specifications for API for museum data

Articulating the Value of Documentation

We understand the value proposition, but many don’t

Bringing together a consortium of international partners (CIDOC, Getty, CHIN, Collections Trust, National organisations)

Showing that Documentation Delivers

Supporting our case with clear evidence of economic Return on Investment and user impact/value

OpenCulture 2012

Annual Great Collections Management Exhibition and Conference

June 26th & 27th 2012

At the Oval, London

SPECTRUM Users/Roadmap meeting


Nick Poole

Collections Trust


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