Researcher-Managed Collections Working Group

An increasing number of institutions and large projects are sharing their collections online (as demonstrated by the continuing series of project reviews on this blog). These entities tend to find enough (but often not much) funding, time and technical expertise to share at least a portion of their digital content.

Large institutions like museums and well funded research groups often develop their own customized systems for publishing collections online. Such customized approaches are typically out of reach for smaller organizations and individuals.

With this concern in mind, part of our user experience study has been to target individuals and small organizations to learn about their content-sharing needs and to develop tools that they can easily adopt to better expose their collections.

In our user experience workshop in January 2009, four researchers identified bodies of content they seek to share or digital tools they desire to improve communication and collaboration among their archaeological sub-disciplines. From this, we formed the Researcher-Managed Collections Working Group, aimed at determining the content-sharing, access and management needs of individual researchers who seek to share digital resources that they have collected about a specific place, region or material type.

The four projects involve zooarchaeology, microdebris, micromorphology and content from one region of northern Iraq. These resources tend to be image-heavy and the communities they serve seek both to contribute their own content and enrich the existing content through commentary. More or less, many have the goal of publishing reference collections, and this goal seems to emphasize media and discussion more than the results of data analysis (as emphasized by Open Context). They also desire simple tools for having discussions and, by involving a global community, moving toward standards or consensus in their discipline. Above all, the creators of these resources have limited funding and technical support, so the system needs to be simple and ideally, free.

Four projects are underway, and all are experiment with a combination of Omeka and Open Context. Features of this hybrid system include: multiple language capabilities, faceted browsing to expose the system’s content, citation, licensing for maximum reuse, and community input through tagging and image annotation. However, the participants have focused on different aspects of the two systems, depending on the needs of their different communities. In the upcoming working group meeting (February 26-27, 2010), participants will meet to discuss their progress, see how others have visualized content using the same tools, and define steps toward having a final product to release to their interested communities.

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