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History

Most recent term: Summer 2011

Background

In the past five years, there has been a proliferation of open source/freeware projects to meet the collections management needs of museums, historical societies, and archives. Some of the projects include: Museolog (http://museolog.sourceforge.net), Museum Archive Software (http://www.musarch.com), Quibit (http://qubit-toolkit.org), Archivists‚ Toolkit (http://www.archiviststoolkit.org), and ICA-Atom (http://ica-atom.org). Although the software programs are free, they often require special IT expertise to install, special training to use, and/or are geared towards professionals. They provide solutions -- but ones that are not simple to implement.

In the United States, it is in small museums, historical societies, and archives where a great need exists for a collections management system that is affordable and simple to implement. Many of these organizations have few professionals and are generally run by volunteers. Their budgets are small; they have little to no IT expertise. They collectively oversee the vast majority of the country's cultural patrimony. The need for a collections management system is apparent.

PastPerfect (http://www.museumsoftware.com) has filled the need for many institutions for close to fifteen years. PP is by far the most affordable of collection management systems [$870 ˆ Version 5.0]. It is simple to install and has the functionality and versatility needed for most museums, historical societies, and archives. The layperson (volunteer) of minimum computer literacy would need specialized training to use PP.

From a user's standpoint, the available applications do not offer the fine mixture of functionality and ease of use and implementation. A new model might be considered in the „citation‰ or „bibliography‰ generator web applications. The three apps that are popularly used are Zotero (http://www.zotero.org), EasyBib (http://www.easybib.com), and BibMe (http://www.bibme.org).

The generators deal with a multitude of formats from books, periodicals to audiovisual and photographic materials. They are simple to use and are used heavily by students, instructors, and researchers from varied backgrounds and disciplines. The applications can be used to store a multiple bibliographies and can import or export citations in different citation styles. There is no special installation required. Many of the web apps are free; the ones listed are free to use or download.

Of the three listed, BibMe provides the best example to model a collections management system. It is simple to use, requires no installation, can handle a multitude of formats and citation styles, and allows for exporting of bibliographies and citation records. A collections management system requires much more functionality and options that are not currently available in BibMe or any other generator. However, the example of BibMe provides a framework that can be adapted and expanded to meet the needs of a collections management system.

Objectives

The project seeks to design an open source, web client-based collections management system (CMS) for small museums, historical societies, and archives to catalog and track their collections. The browser-interface should be simple and intuitive for any volunteer to use but have the robustness, flexibility, and functionality needed by a professional curator or an archivist. The system should require no special installation, run multiple platforms and web-browsers, be free and open for the public to use, and be ADA compliant.

The system must be able to: (1) handle art, artifacts, photographs, audiovisual materials, archival collections, and books; (2) track donor and accession information; (3) create standard catalog records, inventories, and customized reports; (4) provide an option to include low-resolution images with each catalog record; (5) ability to setup separate or shared accounts; and (6) import or export catalog records in the metadata formats of Dublin Core, VRA Core 4.0, METS-MOD, EAD, ISAD, and MARC.

Approach

The project will use a software development method to create a requirements analysis document (RAD). The document will define what user interactions the CMS will support and provide an analysis of the object model or how each item/collection are manipulated and associated with each other. The RAD will present the modeling artifacts of the requirements elicitation and analysis activities, defining for example user scenarios, use cases, use diagrams, and class diagrams. The RAD will also describe the CMS’ non-functional requirements, i.e. user-visible constraints on the CMS that are not related directly to the system’s functionality.

Results

The results will include the production of a requirement analysis document (RAD) and a project wiki, where both project management and system development activities and artifacts will be documented.

Impact

The application will provide a software blueprint for a cost-saving, user-friendly option for small museums, historical societies, and archives seeking a collections management system (CMS).