In October of last year, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) organized a forum entitled “An Age of Discovery: Distinctive Collections in the Digital Age.” The proceedings are online. You can listen to the presentations or read the papers. A few speakers included actual physical artifacts in their collections, e.g., Kenneth Hamma with “Integrating Special Collections into the Enterprise: A Case Study of the Yale Center for British Art” (pdf). I had the pleasure of hearing him present at the “UCLA/Getty Storage Symposium. Preservation and Access to Archaeological Materials” in 2008 when he still worked for the Getty Trust (see my post in IW&A).
“As part of a Princeton archaeological expedition to Cyprus that started in 1983 I lead a small team cataloging the pottery finds – not every fragment, just those things that were sufficiently interesting or intact to qualify. But, in fact, after a few short summer seasons the pottery stores looked more like this. Wouldn’t it be nice, … to have access to related finds as well as unpublished field notes at other excavations, to collections of pottery and related works at museums and at other special collections tucked away here and there around the world. Twenty-five years later, I can say with confidence that it is easier imagined than done. … this experience helped define the goal of access to collections for me as something more comprehensive than simply access to what my undergraduate mentor used to refer to as the purple passages. Any solutions we imagine for integrating special collections into the enterprise have to be aware that the enterprise has other interests and other collections – not all as difficult as this – but collections nevertheless that have to be part of a solution before it is meaningful for a simple archaeologist like myself.”
“There are four parts to this [Yale] project, … Technology, Data, People, and Policy.” “We discussed the incentives to explore digital asset management as a shared venture initially with the Yale University Art Gallery and with the Peabody Museum, …” “… the Center for British Art did not want to have or develop a large information technology burden …” “Let’s turn to Data. Strawberry Hill is an exhibition on the collection of Horace Walpole …” “Out of the work on the Strawberry Hill exhibition came an ideal and very extensive addition to subject indexing from the Walpole Library for all collections in the Center for British art.” “… the Walpole’s subject index … was created by Mrs. Lewis herself and not surprisingly fits hand-in-glove the knowledge domain of British art and culture. Where else could one imagine a well-used entry like: ‘hedgehogs comma magicians’?”
“It is also useful to consider standing the usual management model on its head and then get out of the way. The Digital Coffee group at Yale is representative of the campus. It is self-organizing. It reports to and is responsible to its membership. And among its members, Digital Coffee knows everything there is to know about the production, management and dissemination of visual surrogates. They don’t need to be told what to do, just given a seat at the table.” Is it just me or did this group plagiarize the old Lucent logo? I sure always thought that one looked like a coffee stain… Anyway, Alcatel-Lucent is no longer using it so the Yale caffeine addicts probably don’t have to worry about a cease-and-desist letter…