Monday, April 12, 2010

Google Docs gets a full overhaul

As we have always done a lot of collaborative writing on Google Docs, I thought you would all like to know about the new Google Docs. They have completely rewritten Docs with a number of new features that will help us in our collaborative writing. See here: for an update.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another project worth a look - SI's Arctic Studies Institute

I've just been exploring the website for the Smithsonian Institution's Arctic Studies Institute "Sharing Knowledge" project. What a great project!

From their "About this project" page:

"The goals of Sharing Knowledge are to make the Smithsonian collections accessible to all and to support cross-cultural learning among Indigenous home communities, in schools, and around the world. Interest in the extraordinary arts and cultural heritage of the North is truly global in scope. Participants in this project are Elders, scholars, artists, and teachers who invite all to explore, learn, and appreciate."

They seem to have done a thorough job of community involvement in all aspects of the project. Object pages (like the one in the screenshot above) have links to video of elders talking about the objects, text transcripts of what the elders said, as well as curatorial research about particular objects and their cultural context. These are featured in a section with different tabs: "Elders' Discussion" "History" and "Visitor Comments". What's even better, the pages default to the "Elders' Discussion" tab. The page featured above has a discussion of the materials used to make the parka, as well as a related story told by an elder and translated from the native language line by line. WOW! The more I look at it, the better it gets!

In particular, this section (from the About page again) got me very excited:
"Collaborative Process

The Sharing Knowledge project seeks to follow best practices and standards for cultural research and interpretation. Interview information, including audio and video recordings, was generously provided for public use by members of Indigenous communities, with their informed consent, permission, and review. All of the Washington, D.C. collections study trips were organized in coordination with regional Alaska Native organizations, including the Aleutian-Pribilof Islands Association, IƱupiat Heritage Center, Kawerak, Inc, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center and Museum. These organizations selected and invited the participants on our behalf. For the Sugpiaq region, we thank the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository for its cooperation. Complete discussion transcripts and recordings are archived at the Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage, with copies provided to the cooperating regional organizations. A statewide panel of Alaska Native and museum advisors (see Credits) has provided overall guidance on exhibition and web design. We hope and expect that the site will provide a significant resource for cultural heritage programs throughout the project region."

This project will probably become my favorite example of the kind of thing we're trying to build. Certainly worth a look!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Some more news about the fields

One thing I forgot about in the last post about the database fields was the institution_code. This should be set by the AAMHC and should be a unique code (probably 3 letters) for each institution they deal with. This can be added to any information passed to the AAMHC just so they know what data is coming from who.

I have also done a proforma Excel file and a proforma XML file for museums to contribute data. These should be easy to automatically import into the AAMHC database. The XML proforma includes the format for sending images and videos. We will have to work out some system for the ARGUS users to send images as well.

Example of XML proforma:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<cmsdata xmlns:aamhc="">

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<cmsimage xmlns:aamhc="">

What fields? Sharing between Argus, AAMHC and others.

I have been working on not only how to get the information from the partner museums to Zuni, but also what information to get. This is not easy as it seems largely impossible to find out exactly what fields ARGUS uses, but these seem to change, a bit, from museum to museum. There is also the question of matching up the information we can get out of Argus with other more extensive CMSs like the one at the MAA. However, progress has been made and I want to put this out for discussion.

Looking at the Argus output from the DMNS, MNA, DAM and IARC it seems that though there are slightly different field names in some cases, and different field use, a core set of data can be identified. The overlap with the MAA data is also good. Further, as the MAA data follows pretty closely the SPECTRUM documentation standard, that means that these fields should map well with just about any CMS.

I had trouble getting the blog to accept the table I created, so here is the link to the google spreadsheet with the comparison between the partners and the list of fields that I suggest, at the moment, should be the core of what is imported into the AAMHC database. I should emphasize that this list is just what will be imported from the partner museums into the AAMHC database, and does not determine, in any way, what the AAMHC will do with that data once it is in.

I now have to start working with how to get the data from AAMHC back to the other museums. This is a bigger problem!