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MCG  November 2008

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Subject:

New report - How Museums can meet the needs of Researchers

From:

David Dawson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Museums Computer Group <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Nov 2008 08:46:22 +0000

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text/plain

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A new report has just been put online by the Research Information Network -
http://www.rin.ac.uk/objects
which looks at how museums can better support the needs of researchers - 
see below for an outline.

There are a number of recommendations - the first two of which are 
particularly interesting
1.   All museums and other collections should make the research data in  
  their content management systems available online as soon as possible,  
  without waiting until backlogs are cleared or records improved to levels  
  of perceived ‘perfection’. 
2.   Museums and other collections should develop and publish on 
  their websites a ‘researchers’ charter’, including clear policies on the  
  arrangements for visits by researchers and covering other areas such 
  as the support and facilities available for browsing collections, handling 
  objects, sampling and testing, and loans.

We have updated the page on our webpage for Researchers - and have had 
very good feedback from some of the many researchers that use our 
collections. See
http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/services/index.php?Action=6
We are also finding that it is cutting down some work for us, as it encourages 
researchers to be better prepared before they come to visit.

The report also questions the perceived costs of getting collections online - we 
have found this to be relatively straightforward using our collections 
management system (MODES) which cost us about £2000. It has certainly paid 
for itself in terms of staff time saved in answering enquiries and has made our 
collections better known.

David


Discovering physical objects: Meeting researchers’ needs
The Research Information Network report Discovering objects: Meeting 
researchers’ needs investigates how researchers discover and gain access to 
physical objects and artefacts using four varied subject disciplines as examples 
of the process: archaeology, art history, earth sciences, and social and 
economic history.
Many museums face increasing difficulties in providing the levels of support for 
research and scholarship that some of them did in the past. But the report 
shows that there is great scope for developing collaboration between 
museums, galleries and the research community, which would bring benefits to 
both.
The report finds that researchers want access to online finding aids to enable 
them to plan their visits to museums and collections, so that they can both 
see and handle the objects, and that contact with curatorial staff is of critical 
importance. The evidence gathered shows that most researchers are unaware 
of the online catalogues that currently exist or are being developed and feel 
that that there is a lack of consistency and transparency in the arrangements 
that museums make for researchers’ direct access to objects. However, their 
most important wish is that online access to museum databases to be provided 
as quickly as possible, even if the records are imperfect or incomplete.

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