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Subject: Documentation systems

Documentation systems

From: Nancy Ash <nash<-a>
Date: Thursday, January 3, 2008
Rene. E. Blekman <r.blekman [at] rijksmuseum__nl> writes

>Here in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam we are working on a project
>concerning the centralisation of all documentation, including that
>of restoration, condition and research. We are still in the phase of
>building up our expertise. I am looking for models in which a fully
>integrated system is operational for all kinds of documentation e.g.
>reports, photo's, scientific data, x-ray, microscopic data etc.
>We are using Adlib for CMS. Also different applications are used for
>several purposes.

The database project at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is described
below, with the hope that this information may be useful to others
engaged in trying to improve digital record-keeping for

As with most large institutions, our existing conservation records
were in many formats and our first challenge was to bring them
together in a single system. Over the past eight years or so, we
have developed a program for conservation record-keeping (the
Conservation Tracker System) that may be able to serve the larger
conservation community.  We are in the process of making short term
refinements (to be completed within 4 to 6 months). These will be
followed shortly thereafter by reprogramming the database with open
source code to make it more broadly accessible.

The system presently allows conservators to enter, store, search,
and retrieve conservation records and documentary photography. It
extracts key information about an object (accession number, artist,
title, date) from our collection information system, TMS (it could
connect to any other). We focused on creating a user-friendly
interface for entering information and on printing reports that look
like typical conservation text documents. The system incorporates
word processing features (via MS Word), and allows image viewing and
editing (images stored on a separate server and accessible through
the database; editing for diagrams, etc., via Adobe Photoshop).

Features include screens for entering and printing reports
(examinations, treatments, loan exams) and an analytical report
summary, with an abstract field to summarize report contents. A
conservation history record is generated for each object and
includes a list of conservation reports with abstracts, as well as
any special conditions or handling requirements. There is an in/out
log, a photography log and an analytical request screen.
Administrative functions include the ability to assign user
privilege level (add/edit, view only or access denied), distribute
new reports via email, and attach existing documents in word
processing format (retaining the original format) . Searches include
simple searches by accession number, advanced searches on
information in almost any field with the ability to filter by the
original record source, and text searches in attached documents.

Pick lists are used wherever possible for consistency and to
facilitate future searches. The "signed" feature locks a completed
document, essentially archiving it. Conventions developed for
labeling digital images allow easy identification of date, view,
treatment stage, etc. Other features include a " duplicate function"
that copies information from an existing report and pastes it into a
new one.

We launched the system almost two years ago. It presently contains
over 21,000 text records, which include reports created in the
Tracker, documents attached in word processing format, records
mapped from our previous FileMaker Pro database, and records mapped
from previous collection surveys. The image server now holds 27,000
conservation images.

We think that the design changes and additional features currently
underway for the database will greatly extend its usefulness. These

    *   refining the system architecture so that new screens and
        functions can be added by in-house staff without requiring
        customized programming;

    *   allowing registrars and curators to enter work requests;

    *   attaching notes scanned from conservation files to the

    *   exporting information from Tracker into TMS for general
        viewing by museum staff (such as a history of past
        conservation reports with abstracts for each object, and
        notes about fragility or special handling requirements).

    *   Developing a customizable survey screen.

Please fell free to contact us, Nancy Ash <nash<-a t->philamuseum< . >org> and
Andrew Lins <alins<-a t->philamuseum< . >org> with any questions or thoughts
you might have.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 21:37
                  Distributed: Friday, January 4, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-21-37-002
Received on Thursday, 3 January, 2008

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