An investigation of museum data storage and access technologies including case studies on archaeological records at the National Maritime Museum and visitor information at the Science Museum
This dissertation investigates the technology for storage and access to data in museums, focusing on requirements for collections management and the information needs of visitors. The various components of museum information systems, including data structures and terminology, recording media, computer software and hardware, manual systems, and management procedures are comprehensively examined through case studies at the National Maritime and Science Museums. The first case study describes and assesses manual and computer based techniques developed for the storage and retrieval of records in the Archaeological Research Centre at the UK National Maritime Museum. The types of data which the system encompasses were derived from a wide range of sources, including both land based and underwater fieldwork; archaeological, historical and ethnographic research; routine curatorial activities, including conservation; and research into the conservation of waterlogged materials. Further aspects considered included the collection of data in the field, and the development of a framework on which the analysis of boat finds could be based. Archaeological and museum record keeping, and contemporary developments in computer technology are reviewed. The design, development and use of the system are described, and the system is assessed against the initial specification and in the light of users' experience. The second case study builds on the experience of the first, and examines the requirements for a visitor information system at the Science Museum in London.Sources which are used include an analysis of overall visitor needs, specific requirements for object based information and public interest in information as exhibited through the use of the Museum's World Wide Web pages. Building on these studies and the experience of other museums providing such a facility, a model system is outlined, including visitor orientation and information points within the Museum and external access to information.The data requirements of this system are tested against the types of information which are already available in the museum. An overall approach to designing the system is described. In conclusion a comparison is made between the information requirements for collection management and visitor information. Technological issues including data structures and database design are reviewed, and the costs of various options are considered.