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Subject:

Re: 21st Century digital curation

From:

"Waibel,Guenter" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Museums Computer Group <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 1 May 2008 13:36:32 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (248 lines)

I've been reading this discussion thread with great interest, and there are a couple of things about it that genuinely puzzle me. I'll freely admit that I might be puzzled because I might not have enough background on the UK context for these discussions, so bear with me.

I'm a little puzzled by the way the term "mass digitization" has been used in this thread. I suspect that some folks have used the term here simply to denote the concerted effort to digitize a certain collection of a size in the 1000s. To me, the term implies using new techniques to speed up the process of digitization so rare and unique materials will be available in much larger quantities. It's digitization if you carefully set up and photograph 5-8 items in your studio each day. It's mass digitization if you exponentially increase that number, and at the same time exponentially decrease the cost per capture precisely so a critical mass of materials from cultural heritage institutions can exert the kind of gravity that would attract a large audience. (As you can readily discern, my definition of the term is heavily influenced by mass digitization of bibliographic materials. 10c a page, 500pages/hr. Not that we could ever approximate that for rare and unique materials.)

It seems that some funders in the UK have soured on mass digitization because the end result did not have the impact they had wished for. (Again, I wonder whether my idea of mass digitization would be equivalent to theirs.) If that impact hasn't been achieved by presenting thematic silos of content online, then I don't think that's surprising. My conclusion wouldn't be to question the value of digitization, but to question our strategies for putting the materials in front of people.

Cheers,

GŁnter Waibel
RLG Programs, OCLC
voice: +1-650-287-2144 new!
GŁnter blogs at ... http://www.hangingtogether.org
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Museums Computer Group [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Rachel Cockett
Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2008 6:58 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 21st Century digital curation

Hi,

We have been the recipients of both mass documentation and mass
digitisation funding over the past few years. We currently have some
funding from JISC to digitise our Pre-Raphaelite collection, prior to
making it available online.
See http://tinyurl.com/yraglv

The great benefit is the creation of large numbers of high quality images
of our objects. These have many uses-

-improved documentation, one image attached to a record says far more than
any amount of description,
-images can be incorporated into conservation reports for loans out, into
object listings to answer public queries,
-use and re-use in display, exhibitions, interactives, websites,
-and commerical sales of the image, and items printed with it eg postcards.

I'd agree that anything on a CD/DVD is effectively 'dead', digitised
information needs to be available on a live system, either within a
database or asset management system.  Anything created for a moribund
website should still exist within the creating institution available for
reuse.

We fully intend that our Pre-Raphaelite website will be a fantastic success
but regardless of whether it is or not, the content and images created will
still exist and be accessible for future projects.

Our tens of thousands of digitised objects (many created for externally and
internally funded website projects, moribund or otherwise!) are managed by
a networked Collections Management System originally funded by MLA DCF
funding. They are not lost, digitisation has not failed.

JISC funding aside, our image creation and management and Collections
Management System are now sustained and developed by internal funding. If
something is high enough priority the funding must come from inside
eventually. For the most part ongoing digitisation happens in response to
demands for improved collections access and need for images. The original
funding help us invest in and develop equipment, software, hardware and
procedures for digitisation, massively improving our collections
manangement and consequently service provision along the way.

Regards,
Rachel


(Rachel S Cockett)
Documentation Manager - Collection Management
Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
B3 3DH
0121 303 1679

www.bmag.org.uk
www.bmagic.org.uk
www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk


                                                                           
             "Lowy, Stephen"                                               
             <Stephen.Lowy@HAN                                             
             TS.GOV.UK>                                                 To 
             Sent by: Museums          [log in to unmask]                  
             Computer Group                                             cc 
             <[log in to unmask]                                             
             UK>                                                   Subject 
                                       Re: 21st Century digital curation   
                                                                           
             01/05/2008 13:51                                              
                                                                           
                                                                           
             Please respond to                                             
             Museums Computer                                              
                   Group                                                   
             <[log in to unmask]                                             
                    UK>                                                    
                                                                           
                                                                           



Colleagues

As an attendee of the last night's seminar and a member of a NOF project
back in the "early naughties" I feel Carole and Roy's guarded comments
about mass digitisation were understandable.

The failure of some NOF projects and that includes the one I was involved
with (East of England Sense of Place) was that it geared to doing mass
digitisation, which it did very well, but little or no thought was given to
making it accessible or, and this is the killer, sustainable.

There's no point in digitisation tens of thousands of objects or archives
if no one can access them.  It would be interesting to see how many digital
images saved on CDs or DVDs from NOF projects have now been lost due to
physical deterioration, a significant portion I bet (that's part of the
sustainability issue), let alone readable images residing on moribund
websites.

I suppose we were a bit lucky 10 years ago when mass digitisation was fine
for funders, 10 years earlier mass documentation was a sure fire winner to
get funds, and before that the Manpower's scheme was responsible for kick
starting a lot of museums with grants, all good stuff but regrettably
history now.

As for HLF If you work with them for a length of time it becomes clear that
the amount of funds they give is linked to the usage of the heritage being
funded. E.g. HLF won't give you £1M if you only expect to have 10,000 extra
users/participants a year, that's true for a new visitor centre, digital
archive or community history project.  They may give you £50,000 but in
these Olympically stringent times that's all they can afford.  I am afraid
its down to footfall or clicks, they won't say that but that's the
yardstick.

Putting this into context MLA is in a general mood of retrenchment (as is
HLF), which is not good, especially if you are small organisation that
doesn't have a national profile, smaller local grants have been axed, and
the long heralded announcement of £1M grants scheme pa, is actually rather
small for England, and I am not sure how a national body like MLA in Brum
will be able to get these funds to innovative small organisations, it was
hard enough when there were regional MLAs!

Regrettably the talk, which incidentally was titled Curation in the C21th,
did not really discuss these matters and was frankly a little disappointing
bar some good questions at the end, mind the wine and company afterwards
was excellent!

Must dash I've got some collections to catalogue and digitise.

Stephen Lowy
Deputy Head of Collections &
Principal Community Curator
Hampshire Museums & Archives Service
Chilcomb House, Winchester
Hampshire, SO23 8RD
[log in to unmask]
Tel: 01962 826717
HSPN: (8)327 6717

Explore Hampshire Museums In May..
www.museummayhem.co.uk/





-----Original Message-----
From: Museums Computer Group [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
Bridget McKenzie
Sent: 01 May 2008 13:05
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: 21st Century digital curation

I just posted this on my blog. Any advances on my suggestions about what
such lead bodies should be doing to invest in 21st century digital
curation?

"I went to a seminar at UCL last night, to hear Roy Clare, CEO of the MLA
and Carole Souter, CEO of HLF talking about the future, the funding context
and how their respective bodies will contribute to curation in the 21st
Century. I'm not going to supply a full transcript of the event, but have
picked up a key issue about digital strategy.

Carole Souter insisted that the HLF would not fund digitisation (only 'real
people doing real things'). She conceded that there could be some catchy,
engaging digital culture projects, for example the Tate's campaign inviting
the public to buy a brushstroke of a painting. A questioner asked 'Call me
naive, but surely if digitisation is what we are crying out for, why do you
make these restrictions?' The response was 'We're getting tough with
people. You have to look at the breadth of our aims. We're an additional
funder, not a funder of core activities.
If you tell us that 200,000 more people are going to look at your website
because of it, well, so what? How do you know they have really been
engaged?' So, her suggestion was that if you are going to include
digitisation into an HLF bid, it would have to involve people in specific
thematic projects of local interest.

Roy Clare highlighted the NOF Digitise project as an example of where we
went wrong in assuming that mass digitisation and online publishing of
collections would be engaging. He said that when he (when at the National
Maritime Museum) and partners were planning Port Cities
http://www.portcities.org.uk/: 'Did we think about how anybody would ever
find it? How they would engage with it?' His response seemed to suggest
that we shouldn't do digitisation because these projects were difficult to
market.

However, my argument would be that the NOF projects are an example of the
limited thematic trap that the HLF approach to digital culture encourages.
The Port Cities project may not be as successful as it could have been
precisely because they made too much effort to define a theme, to define a
collaboration between several museums, to focus on particular markets and
so on.

What is needed is a flexible approach to digitisation that enables
collection items to be presented in multiple thematic, social,
institutional and technological contexts and to be interpreted in multiple
ways and combined with other collections in multiple ways.
Investment in a) the continuation of mass digitisation and b) in incubating
approaches to tagging, indexing, syndicating etc are what we need now, and
we should see this being championed as the core of 21st Century Curation by
bodies such as MLA and HLF."

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