Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quality Control

We are currently re-importing the records into NovaMuse. I'm not just sitting around watching this take place, but I do check in from time to time, trying out searches and checking the quality and consistency of data.

As we've been wrestling with the many tasks associated with the NovaMuse launch, we've had a lot of conversations about quality control. We want this site to be highly respected by the public and by our professional peers. We want it to make our museums look good! A lot of hard work goes into running a museum, and the website should be something that makes people sit up and take notice of this great work. So if someone hasn't been following professional standards, it will be very noticeable when mixed in with records that are nice and clean. This will make the museum look bad, and take away from the credibility of the website.
So we've built in a quality control filter. When you set a record to be accessible to the public, it has to go through our filter before it will display on NovaMuse. Anything that gets blocked will be added to a new "to do list" widget so you can see what needs fixing. Here are some lessons on how our quality control filter will work:

1. Object Names - these should follow the Nomenclature book. The basic formula is Generic Name, Qualifier. For example: Chair, Rocking. That's it. Nothing else. No numbers or symbols or descriptive details go in this field. But of course with over 187,000 records and many different people entering data, we have some inconsistency here. Below is a screen shot from NovaMuse. Highlighted in red are things that I should not see as options in the object name browse feature. No numbers, no symbols. In the list itself - no sentences. So these records will all be blocked until they are fixed by the contributing museum. I have highlighted in blue some of the object names that I see within these records. Book. Booklet. Hat, Top. Grinder, Meat. Notecard.  
Messy Object Names - these will all be blocked

2. Ownership - if you have tagged loaned or deaccessioned items as "accessible to the public", these will be blocked from view. If you don't own it, you don't have the right to show it off online. And we won't be expending public resources on private collections (and neither should you!). Loaned items should not be given accession numbers or entered in the database, but I know that a lot of people have numbered & entered their loans. So your "to do list" will alert you to any loans that you tried to showcase online.
No loans allowed!

it's a medicine bottle...I think
3. Image Resolution - Images uploaded to NovaMuse cannot be downloaded or saved from the site. If people want a copy, they can request one from the museum. So we want the best possible resolution, allowing people to zoom in and see the details of the item. Low resolution images won't just hide details, but will display as blurry blobs online. So anything below 800 pixels will be blocked and added to your "to do list". Blurry images make us all look bad.

4. The five field rule - if you have fewer than 5 fields containing data in a record, the record will remain invisible until you add more information. Listing a basic inventory of object name & accession number is going to be more frustrating than useful to the public. So as you continue to add & update information, skeletal records will gradually be unblocked and added to the website. 

As I've travelled the province I have had a very positive response to this filter. People seem to like the idea of getting a list of things to fix. And since the website will run a daily refresh, the list of blocked items can be gradually worked through and the clean records will seamlessly appear online.

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