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A new report from the Research Information Network has just been
released, about the quality of 'finding aids' for researchers wishing to
gain access to museum catalogues and objects.

The study found that museums face increasing difficulties in providing
the levels of support for research and scholarship, but that there's
great scope for developing collaboration between museums, galleries and
the research community which would bring benefits to both.

To go directly to the report's findings, visit: www.rin.ac.uk/objects

Dan.

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Research Information Network - News release: 27 November 2008

Discovering physical objects: Meeting researchers' needs

"We want museums to get as much information out there as possible, so it
is online in what ever format - it doesn't matter about tidying it up or
just putting up the bare minimum."

The Research Information Network's (RIN) new report Discovering physical
objects: Meeting researchers' needs investigates how researchers
discover and gain access to physical objects and artefacts and focuses
on the current issues for museums and their staff in providing the
facilities researchers need. The report gives a unique overview of the
current situation in the UK and provides a range of recommendations for
museums and their supporting organisations, such as Museums, Libraries
and Archives Council (MLA), Collections Trust and the Museums
Association. The report and a summary are available at
www.rin.ac.uk/objects

The traditional role of museums centres on the acquisition,
conservation, curation and exhibition of objects and artefacts. Many
museums have grown from private collections built up by scholars, and
therefore research and scholarship has been fundamental to their
mission. Academic researchers have been among the primary users of
museums and curators have often been scholars in their chosen fields.

For museums, in recent years, new elements have been added to this role
and, for many, their priorities have changed. The Department for
Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) makes no reference to research or
scholarship in its four priority areas for museums; widening
participation and visitor development have become increasingly important
in recent years. There is a renewed interest in object-based research
within the academic community and access to museum objects is extremely
important. 

For many museums however, academic researchers - who do not contribute
significantly to visitor numbers - are not now viewed as a key target
audience. The report investigates these issues in more detail and
focuses on:

* the availability, scope and quality of finding aids to enable
researchers across a range of disciplines to discover information about
collections of physical objects and artefacts of relevance to their
research, 

* barriers to the search process, and:

* the use and perceptions of existing finding aids and discovery
services by researchers, including any key gaps in coverage or scope.

The RIN will hold a follow up event to this report in the Spring of 2009
to investigate these issues further and discuss ways to address the
recommendations made - more details will be available on the website
soon, or email [log in to unmask] to be put on our e-news mailing
list.

Contact:
Sarah Gentleman - Communications Officer - Research Information Network
Email [log in to unmask] tel 020 7412 7241

Notes to editors:

The Research Information Network
The Research Information Network has been established by the higher
education funding councils, the research councils, and the national
libraries in the UK. We investigate how efficient and effective the
information services provided for the UK research community are, how
they are changing, and how they might be improved for the future. We
help to ensure that researchers in the UK benefit from world-leading
information services, so that they can sustain their position as among
the most successful and productive researchers in the world. Visit
www.rin.ac.uk