Friday, October 11, 2013

Museum Database Lessons - Part 2

Object Names & Capitalization
I can be lazy in my capitalization sometimes when writing to friends via email or Facebook. But when I'm working in a database or doing anything that I want to be viewed as "professional", I become a real stickler. And this is a mindset that I hope everyone adopts. When you look at how Nomenclature 3.0 presents object names, the first letter is always capitalized. They tell you to use Chair, Rocking rather than chair, rocking. But for some reason not everyone is following this standard. At the other end of the spectrum, I'm seeing some records that are entirely capitalized. For anyone unaware of what this means in the written and/or online world, anything entered in CAPS LOCK means you are YELLING at your reader. I know that some of these records have been migrated from very early database systems that automatically capitalized everything, but that doesn't mean you should continue the practice in our lovely new system. The last thing we want is for any museum to look lazy or crazy on NovaMuse, so please remember to capitalize correctly.

Gender Designations
Some museum databases have a gender field, but we use the Object Type field for this information. One of my pet peeves here is that people aren't consistent with how they enter a gender designation. Male-associated objects have been plugged in as man, men, man's, men's, gentleman' many different ways to say it. So let's pick one method and stick to it. If it's a female item, enter Woman's in the object type field. Man's can be entered for male-associated items. You don't know that the owner of the object was a gentleman or a lady, so don't make that assumption. They might have been a jerk with no class at all.


I love our CollectiveAccess database system. It's so lovely. And one of the things that I love about it is that it wants to make our lives easier with shortcuts. Yes please!!  For the category field, this means we only have to pick the most specific, or lowest level, category. For instance, if you have a hay rake, it falls under Tools & Equipment for Materials Agricultural Tools & Equipment → Harvesting Equipment. So in the category field, just enter Harvesting Equipment. 


This field is NOT optional. You need to document who gave you what. Once this name is entered, references to the donor in other fields should be done by calling them "the donor". We don't want to broadcast the names of our donors via NovaMuse. So please stop putting in "donated by XXX" in your history of use or narrative or description or anywhere else. You've already documented it in the Source field.

Acquisition Method

This field is NOT optional. If your paper records are lost of destroyed, the database becomes your proof of ownership. In my first Database Lessons blog post I ranted a bit about skimping on data entry and referring people to the paper records. Again, we have to get out of that mindset. The database is where information from the temporary receipt, gift agreement, donor questionnaire, condition report, and every other document related to the item gets pulled together into one resource. 

Media Files

I know I rant about good pictures in my monthly updates, but I'm still seeing problems here. And honestly, I think this stems from students or volunteers being handed a camera and told to "take pictures of the artifacts". Um, yes. That is technically what they'll be doing. But it's a little more complicated than that. These images are being shared with the world, so don't you want them to be professional-looking and of high quality? So let's do a quick review here:
Gavel & Block
Desbrisay Museum
1 - images need to be at least 1200x1200 pixels
2 - two-dimensional items should be scanned
3 - use the macro setting for detail shots
4 - make sure the object is the only object in the photograph
5 - angles and lighting matters
6 - if the picture didn't turn out, redo it.
7 - the image file name needs to match the accession number, but replace any dots with underscores or dashes (1999.4.5 = 1999_4_5.tif). Don't ever add extra numbers or letters for additional views or it looks like you've changed the accession number. Use qualifying terms for additional views, ie 1999_4_5_side.tif or 1999_4_5_label.tif.
Look at what your peers have posted on NovaMuse and you'll quickly be able to tell what makes a good (or bad) artifact photo.
I've also had a lot of questions from people whose images weren't appearing on NovaMuse. More often than not, the images weren't online because they hadn't been set to be accessible. Once a record is set to be accessible, you have to do the same for any media files that have been attached.

Read Museum Database Lessons - Part 1

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