These are my notes from Bridget McKenzie's presentation, 'National Collections Online Feasibility Study' at the MCG Spring meeting. Bridget's slides are online: National Collections Online Feasibility Study'. There's some background to my notes about the conference in a previous post. Any of my comments are in [square brackets] below.
The partners in the National Collections Online Feasibility Study are the National Museum Director's Conference, the V&A, the National Museum of Science and Industry, the National Maritime Museum, and Culture 24 (aka the 24 Hour Museum).
Is it possible to create a discovery facility that integrates national museum collections; provides seamless access to item-level collections; a base on which build learning resources and creative tools? And can the nationals collaborate successfully?
What's the scope? What's useful to different partners? What can be learnt from past and current projects? How can it help people explore collections? How can it be delivered?
There's a workshop on May 9th, with some places left, and another on June 18th; reports at the end of May and July.
Community of enquiry... people from lots of different places.
What are they saying?
"Oh no, not another portal!"
"You need to go to where the eyeballs are" - they're at Google and social networking sites, not at portals (but maybe at a few museum brands too).
It has to be understood in the context of why people visit museums. We don't know enough about how people use (or want to use) cultural collections online.
There's some worry about collaborative projects taking visits from individual sites. [Insert usual shtick about the need to the online metrics for museums to change from raw numbers to something like engagement or reach, because this is an institutional concern that won't go away.]
"Don't reinvent the wheel, see how other projects shape up": there's a long list of other projects on slide 9!
It's still a job to understand the options, to think about they can be influenced and interoperate.
"We have to build the foundations first"
Needs: audience research - is there a market need for integrated collections?; establish clarity on copyright [yes!]; agreement on data standards; organisational change - communicate possibilities, web expertise within museums; focus on digitising stuff and getting it out there.
[re: the audience - my hunch is that most 'normal' people are 'museum agnostic' when they're looking for 'stuff' (and I mean 'stuff', not 'collections') - they just want to find 18th century pictures of dogs, or Charles and Di wedding memorabilia; this is different to someone looking for a 'branded' narrative, event or curated experience with a particular museum.]
"Let's just do small stuff"
Need to enable experiment, follow the Powerhouse example; create a sandbox; try multiple approaches - microformats, APIs, etc. [Woo!]
Does a critical mass of experimentation mean chaos or would answers emerge from it?
What does this mean?
Lots of options; questions about leadership; use the foundations already there - don't build something big; need an market- or audience-led approach; sector leadership need to value and understand emerging technology.