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Subject: Database and software for conservation records

Database and software for conservation records

From: Jo Crook <jo.crook>
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2004
Karen Potje <kpotje [at] cca__qc__ca> writes

>... I'm trying to locate any institutional conservation departments
>that can give us information on how the Museum System fares as a
>tool for conservation documentation or can back us up as fellow
>Filemaker-Pro users.

About five years ago the Tate began an extensive search for a
collections management system to replace the in-house built system,
which consisted of a large number of interlinked Clipper databases
developed in a highly bespoke manner in direct response to the
specific needs of the Gallery. It was agreed that we needed to
provide a single, accessible resource for all information relating
directly to the Collection and associated areas. We decided to opt
for the 'off the shelf' package, which had the advantage of supplier
support, speed of implementation and upgraded versions of the
software. In our consideration of appropriate software we consulted
CHIN's Collections Management Software Review, which is based on
examinations of individual collections management software packages
and the comments of the evaluators. The group responsible for
reviewing the systems consisted of conservators, curators,
registrars, art handlers and IT operators.

The systems that we looked at initially were MUSIMS, MultiMimsy, The
Museum System and Collection. In my opinion none of the systems we
looked at were better than fairly well related to the Tate's own
needs, particularly in terms of data structures and processes. In
terms of suitability to Conservation's needs, none were better than
poor: they could support pre-acquisition, loan suitability,
condition survey recording with a fair degree of structuring of
information, without excessive dependence on free text. Recording of
other aspects of current work within Conservation, such as
examination and treatment, other than by simple free text, was not
supported; some areas such as photography were only partly supported
by strictly object related records. All four systems appeared to do
quite a lot as they stood for collections management, however,
MultiMimsy and The Museum System were more open systems in the sense
of being based on a mainstream business DBMS (database management
system) and therefore were likely to integrate better with other
Gallery information systems.

We ended up eventually with The Museum System and have been using it
for over three years. We are linking a lot of conservation
information, e.g. structure and examination reports, treatment
reports, etc, in the form of word documents to the object record,
which does at least mean that we are using one resource for
information about the object.

If you have any specific questions about the system, please contact
me at my email address.

Jo Crook
Conservation Curator
Tate Britain
London SW1P 4RG
+44 20 7887 8049
Fax: +44 20 7887 8982

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:27
                Distributed: Thursday, December 16, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-18-27-011
Received on Thursday, 9 December, 2004

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