Building a museum from scratch

December 1, 2010

OLD-ISH CONTENT WARNING: You are viewing a post that’s more than three years old. There’s a good chance that a lot of the following is seriously out-of-date (or at least not reflective of my current thinking on this topic). Proceed with caution.

I posed a quick question on Twitter this morning (or this afternoon, for those of you east of the Rocky Mountains) that I feel needs a bit more clarification than I could squeeze into 140 characters, so I thought I’d log into the ol’ blog (for the first time since July) and do some old fashioned clarifyin’.

Anyway, the question I posed was this: There was a problem connecting to Twitter.

While it’s easy to think of all kinds of things that museums could do better (and indeed, since asking this question, I’ve received a bunch of excellent replies to this effect), what I’m really trying to get at here are identifying processes that we (perhaps grudgingly) accept as givens, but that we would never enact if we were just starting from scratch today.

A good example of this would be object (or accession) numbers. If museums didn’t already exist, each with their own unique object numbering schemas, I have a hard time imagining that we would take a similar approach to object identification. It seems far more likely that we’d do something along the lines of what Richard McCoy and I have been discussing for a while, something like an ISBN or PURL for works of art. This number would be forever permanent, and would move with the object when deaccessioned, purchased, loaned, or whatever. The reason that this is such an interesting example to me is that because unique objects don’t, in fact, have truly unique identifiers, using them in a linked data context is extraordinarily difficult. The main reason objects don’t have truly unique identifiers is because tradition dictates that objects have identifiers only within the context of an institution–once the object leaves that institution, the identifier no longer has meaning.

It’s just a small example (and a super-technical one, because that’s my thing), but the implications are huge in that we wouldn’t have to build big, complicated systems around compensating for the lack of unique IDs. I wonder what other processes there are like this in our world–how would we build museums differently, if we were just starting out now?

If you enjoyed reading this, just imagine how much fun it would be to work with me! I am available for all manner of museum and non-profit digital engagements.

See what I can do for younavigate_next

July 8, 2010

}} “It’s not about the technology.” I hear this meme invoked all the time at “museum tech” conferences nowadays. Indeed, I myself have said this a bunch of times when develo

October 22, 2009

}} This post is Part Two of a series of posts. You can read Part One, with a brief introduction, here. The economist Herbert Simon identified the issue of how to determine value in a world of abundant an

July 22, 2010

}} Disclaimer: This is something that I&’m still trying to figure out, so a lot of what follows is still kinda half-baked and rant-y (just your typical post, I s