packaging University museum collections information as part of open metadata provision
Producing a service that engages with the higher education sector means it must cater for a wide range of users and needs. This is something that the Contextual Wrappers 2 project has had to understand when looking at both the users and use cases of this project. Undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and academics (as well as a wider audience beyond HE) can all benefit from the outcomes of this project. To understand the needs of these different audiences, the project has undertaken online surveys and will be conducting a series of focus groups, made up of individuals from these demographics to both inform developments for the project and the wider Culture Grid service as it continues to evolve. The use cases reflect the focus of the project on collections within university museums and part of the evaluation process will be to test the validity of this focus.
The project proposes a variety of different use cases. For example, a postgraduate researcher may be interested in researching a specific topic or research area. The project addresses this through the use of collection level descriptions that can be both subject based and include pre-defined searches, testing how best to form these descriptions to assist in the scoping process during early stages of research .
Similarly, academics may want to use a University Museum search-service to develop or support study guides for their courses, potentially linked to their institution or locality. This would enable students to make more targeted use of museum collections as a resource and reference for their studies and to search through specific collections which are integrated with course material. The project’s investigation of the use of the Joint Academic Coding System (http://www.hesa.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=158&Itemid=233 ) to classify collections is a particular feature aimed at supporting better integration of museum collections with these kinds of core University activities and systems.
Surveys and consultation workshops have been used so far to engage the kinds of users the project is concerned with. The reaction currently has been positive and demonstrated that there are a large number of University Museum records which could benefit from this kind of mediated resource discovery. The project will deliver generic solutions which can be applied to a specific group of collections (from University Museums) and more widely, by using the same framework for collection and item records from other sectors, ultimately aiding resource discovery for a wider variety of collections and a wider variety of users.
Contextual Wrappers 2 aims to address a number of problems which were identified at the end of the first Contextual Wrappers project. Assessing the importance of interoperability, creating a service that will maximise the potential of the records currently held within the Culture Grid, understanding what the value of a museum collections search is and its use within the higher education sector were all issues that arose. In particular we wanted to understand the implications of ‘resource discovery’ , as opposed to item level searching, from the perspective both of data creation and user requirement. Much valuable work has been done in the past on Collection Level Descriptions [ http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/metadata/rslp/ ] and this project has sought to build on this framework and assess what barriers there might be in creating and using collection level descriptions (CLDs).
Through answering these questions, the project aims to further support the opening up of UK University Museum Collections, aiding better discovery of these records and presenting this information to the user through a prototype UK University Museum Collections Search Portal and an improved Culture Grid search. The project will investigate the benefits of using CLDs within the Culture Grid, and how adopting this approach can create more open, connected and discoverable museum collections to benefit higher education and other sectors.