Access to data has been central to our journey throughout this unit…
One of the things I love best about my job is the contribution that I make to the NMA’s collections online – Collection Explorer. At any one time, about only 5% of the museum’s collection is on display. Collection Explorer gives access to 50% of the museum’s collection 24 hours a day. On the surface, Collection Explorer seems effortless, but the records and images displayed have taken years of development and are undergoing continuous improvement. In some cases, we can provide better and more in depth access to objects on line than in the gallery. In the gallery you can view the exterior of a car, online you can view the engine and the interiors. In gallery you can view one page of a sketch book, online you can read from beginning to end.
I also wonder about how we can capture new discoveries about the collection, how the museum can collaborate with those who engage with the collection. In an environment of dwindling resourcing it is essential that there is a two-way conversation about what is created from the data made available through an API. In relation to collections, the NMA is merely a custodian. We have no real desire to lock the collection away, but we do have responsibilities in terms of the collection and to ensure that museum operations are sustainable so we can continue into the future. I am left conflicted, but I am just one small cog – fortunately in this case, these decisions are bigger than me!