Simplified Management of Complex Digital Archive and Web Presentation Projects
David Calco , Oberlin College, USA

Session: Society/ Impact: Social Context

The Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM), Oberlin College, is using digital technology to enhance its educational mission: digital archiving and web publishing are being used to vastly increase and enhance the availability of our educational resources. By pursuing the dual goals of presentation and preservation, we are creating a system that will allow unprecedented access to thousands of significant works of art while simultaneously vastly reducing the need for handling and exposure to light of valued, delicate objects. AMAM, as an academic art museum, recognizes the increasing importance of digital technology for educational and teaching purposes. Demand for access to the collection is increasing, while at the same time staff resources and exhibition space are limited, and concern about collection care is growing; alternative methods are needed to provide access to the museum's collection. The AMAM is building on past accomplishments to explore and use new ideas and information technologies in the service of education and teaching.

At ICHIM 1997, AMAM's Jenny Wilker presented a paper titled 'The Electronic Presentation of a Scholarly Collection Catalogue: An Oberlin Case Study.' That paper detailed our work on the creation of a multimedia CD containing many high-resolution images, in depth scholarly essays, audio, video and moveable 3D virtual sculptures (QTVR), as well as online databases of Japanese prints and ancient coins. As these projects evolve into presenting our collection on the world wide web and developing a comprehensive digital archive, many new aspects of project management are emerging that demand not only technical savvy but also careful purpose. As decisions are made that commit enormous human and financial resources to rapidly changing technologies, it is important to assess how our efforts to increase access to our collections are having a positive effect. Are more people viewing and learning more about great art? Are lives enriched because of remote access to the museum's collection? Can educators use our resources to enhance student learning? If so, how can we measure our impact?

This paper will organize the major issues that a museum must address when embarking on digital archiving and web publishing projects. The AMAM has developed project sub-categories that simplify management of this complex work. Diagrams and concept maps will be used to illustrate distinctions and relationships between equipment needs, collection management software, interactive web site design, information architecture and useful evaluation tools. A comprehensive bibliography of references and resources will enable attendees to gain further knowledge about each of the elements discussed.

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Published: 01/09/01
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Archives & Museum Informatics