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published: April, 2002

Archives & Museum Informatics, 2002.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License


The MLN Directory: Enabling Collection Sharing Among U.S. Museums
Michele Assaf, Museum Loan Network-MIT, USA
Mark Wright, Museum Loan Network-MIT, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations 2

This demonstration will feature the Museum Loan Network (MLN) web site and will focus on the MLN Directory - a searchable online database of potential loan objects currently in storage at U.S. museums. The MLN facilitates the long-term loan of art and objects of cultural heritage among U.S. institutions as a way to enhance the installations of museums, thus enabling them to better serve their communities. The MLN programs have led to the sharing of objects among different types of museums, fostering collaborations between institutions of varying size and discipline throughout the United States. Funded and initiated by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, the MLN is administered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Office of the Arts.

In 1996, the Museum Loan Network developed the MLN Directory as an integral part of its initiative to facilitate and fund long-term collection sharing among U.S. institutions. Museums request a password from the MLN and are then able to logon to the Directory through the MLN web site to conduct searches for objects and their repositories. When conducting a search on the MLN Directory, users are able to access complete object records including images. As museum professionals search for objects to enhance their installations, they have particular use for a web site where potential loan objects housed in museums throughout the U.S. can be researched and identified. Currently more than 250 museums in the U.S. have access to the MLN Directory, containing approximately 7000 object records and representing more than 1000 world cultures. The MLN Directory connects collections from 50 museums throughout the United States.

During the demo, MLN staff will illustrate how museums throughout the U.S. make use of the MLN Directory to locate objects in collections of other U.S. institutions. Points covered in the demo will include description of the function of the MLN Directory, content (data type and standards) and consideration of challenges and benefits of creating and maintaining a shared online collections resource for museums. Sample searches and records will illustrate MLN Directory functionality. Emphasis will be on the MLN Directory as a working model for developing tools for sharing structured collection-specific information among museums via the web. Demonstration attendees will also have the opportunity to view the virtual exhibitions on the MLN web site. The virtual exhibitions allow viewers to navigate through innovative installations facilitated by the MLN Directory.