Two perspectives on putting collections online

The Collections Australia Network (CAN) takes two approaches to putting collections online. Exporting the entire database into an Excel spreadsheet with images or selecting a minimum of five items to be uploaded. Here are two case studies demonstrating both strategies.

RACHAEL ROSE University of Tasmania Art Collection online
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University of Tasmania Fine Art Collection registrar and keeper Rachael Rose has successfully uploaded the entire art collection to CAN. Even though she only has general computer skills, she was able to export the whole collection into an Excel spreadsheet without any difficulty. Rachael approached CAN for a little Outreach support. Now researchers and curators can search the whole university art collection online. Email Rachael Rose if you would like to know more about her experience of preparing the university art collection for CAN.

DAVID HARDHAM Glen Eira Historical Society collection online
David_Hardham
David Hardham is an IT professional who volunteers for several historical societies in country Victoria. He has been working with the Glen Eira Historical Society in Victoria to raise the profile of the organisation. His first step was to put the collection online in phases so that the society could assess the impact of going online. One of its greatest concerns was the impact on photo sales but the society was reassured that there would be more likely to be a positive impact on this revenue stream. Email David Hardham if you would like to know more about his experience of preparing the Glen Eira collection for CAN.

How did the organisation upload its collection to CAN?
DH: We selected a sample collection to upload rather than our entire database. We did this to see what the impact would be and the effort required to do this as we have approximately 2000 items that is increasing every week.
RR: Exported 1270 records in the database onto an Excel spreadsheet, then matched images, copied them and sent through on a separate disc.

Does CAN’s metadata suit the organisation’s catalogue fields?
DH: Generally yes.
RR: Yes.

What was the impact on resources in preparing the collection to be uploaded?
DH: The time taken in extracting the information from our existing database and re-formatting to the required metadata structure. Now that we know how to do that, we can tailor our database extract to the same order and fields as the metadata and that will make further extracts a lot easier.
RR: Time- although most of the information was in the database, I discovered that over the years and with different people entering data there were discrepancies, typos, and missing details which all needed to be corrected and then checked. It was a fantastic opportunity to get the database into shape, but took a lot longer than I first anticipated. Also matching up images which could be copied across took some time, as many had to be rescanned or photographed. Until this point the database has only been viewed by the curator managing the collection, and so many of the images were only snapshots for identification purposes. To get better quality images for online use meant a little more time and work, but it was well worth the effort.

What was the biggest challenge in preparing the collection spreadsheet?
DH: CAN can only hold one record per item, we have a number of single entry items that have one or more photographs, so we have to replicate the spreadsheet line so that there is only one photograph per line. An example is that we have a single entry that has over 200 photographs associated with it.
RR: Checking all the information was correct against other records – with so many entries it was fairly time-consuming but it also meant I learnt a lot more about each individual artwork in the collection.

What will be your approach moving forward?
DH: Using the answers from the two questions above as a guide, we will probably upload our data in stages rather then an entire database at once.
RR: Learning how to use social media.

What will be the potential benefits in having the collection on CAN?
DH: Provide access of our collection to a wider audience, especially the photographs we have.
RR: People often enquire about what works we have in the Collection, so it will be helpful having an online presence to refer them to. I hope it will bring the Collection to a wider audience for general appreciation and also to aid researchers and other artists.

To what extent will social media be used to share stories about collection material?
DH: It is an evolving story that will expand as more data is catalogued and recorded and made available. We see it as a key item in making the general public aware of what we have and what we do.
RR: This is not something we use now but certainly an interesting possibility in the future.

3 Responses to “Two perspectives on putting collections online”

  1. Andrew Whittington Says:

    Having read how much time and effort was devoted by David and Rachael it is a shame that your article didn’t mention how easy the task could be.
    MOSAiC users can export their data to CAN by simply clicking on the CAN button in MOSAiC. MOSAiC exports the appropriate fields required by CAN for the records you selected and packages the data along with the appropriate images into a separate folder ready to be sent without further work. CAN is able to upload this export directly into its database.

  2. David Hardham Says:

    Andrew

    I don’t disagree with what you say but two things I would point out, the first is that we (at GEHS) don’t use Mosaic and secondly, the export function to CAN is only available in the latest vers 10.6, many societies have earlier versions and the cost to upgrade is prohibitive for many who run on a meagre income

  3. rachael rose Says:

    I should mention we use Filemaker Pro as our database. Now that I’ve seen how to format the information for CAN I will be able to structure future input to make the upload easily and without any adjustment. it was really about getting our information up to scratch across all the fields required by CAN.

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