Dr Cornelia Weber
Humboldt University at Berlin, Germany
Marta C. Lourenço
Museum of Science
University of Lisbon, Portugal
Marta Lourenço, Martin Stricker and I are developing a Web-based database in
English for UMAC:
The UMAC Worldwide Database aims at providing a global directory of university museums and collections to be used by UMAC, researchers, students, and the general public world wide. The advantage of the system is that various people from all over the world will be able to enter data and keep it up to date. The database is based on two major pre-existing databases of university museums and collections:
- UMAC/Macquarie Database, developed by Peter Stanbury
- the database of German universities and collections, developed by myself.
The database offers two completely different interfaces: one for public access (to obtain information) and another for designated people entering data. From the index page, one can browse the database by geographical category, by type or by subject. The numbers in brackets indicate the number of records per keyword. By clicking on a continent, country or type or by choosing a subject, the database system will show the list of selected records, ordered geographically or alphabetically. As soon as possible we also want to develop an index by object.
An additional "Quick Search" allows a full-text search, for example to find the collections of a specific university.
- State or Province (when applicable)
- Country or Territory
2. Index by Type
The index by type gives an overview of different existing types of institutions. If necessary, a new type can be added at any time. At the moment 16 types are known:
- Art Gallery
- Astronomical Observatory
- Biological Station
- Botanic Garden
- House Museum
- Science Centre
- Sculpture Park
3. Index by Subject
The index by subject shows all academic disciplines which are represented in the collections or museums. For the time being the list distinguishes 99 subjects. For example:
There are different levels and sub-levels of subjects, for example natural history - biology - botany - phylogeny. The more specified the subject-hierarchy is, the better the result for users. The next step is to revise this very simple thesaurus with the help of the working group 'directories' and evolve it into a hierarchical thesaurus.
4. Index by Object
As soon as possible we want to set up an index by object. Developing such an index is a major challenge and a unique chance for UMAC to make an important contribution to the world of science and humanities, and museology in particular. It should be a hierarchical thesaurus which lists all objects in university collections and museums. For example: artifact - model - wax model.
A distinct research project will be required specifically in order to apply for funds and develop this object thesaurus. What else in the world represents such a huge number of disciplines as university collections and museums? We should point out the multidisciplinary nature of our 'business', make use of its distinct character, and our potential to be innovative, for our benefit and for the benefit of the museum community at large.
5. Other Information
A complete record will give the following information:
- Name of the Collection/Museum (with a link to the Web site, if applicable)
- Name in English
- Name of the University (with a link to the Web site)
- State or Province (when applicable)
- Country or Territory
- Type or Types
- Function which applies only for the type ŃCollection" like Research, Teaching or Research and Teaching
- Subject or Subjects
- Opening Hours
- E-mail (+ alternative E-mail)
- Additional Information
- Further Reading
The main purpose of the user interface is to facilitate and support the creation and editing of records for the database. The interface enables editors from every computer around the globe to access and write into the database, physically located at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany. To enter or edit a record a login and password is required which is restricted to a certain number of designated UMAC members. Each new record will be sent to the database system. After checking the record an editor with publishing rights has two possibilities: If the record is okay, it gets the status "open" and will be open to public access from then on. Or, if the record is not okay, it can either be edited by the administrator immediately or the status may be set to "revise", which indicates that the record needs to be revised by the editor. This procedure guarantees a controlled entering of data and terminological and conceptual consistency. Furthermore, the database system provides a special feature which enables the editor to make a suggestion for a new type or subject. Usually one can choose a type or subject from the preselection list. However, if a term is missing, one can send an appropriate suggestion to the administrator who then decides on entry or rejection.
In order to facilitate data entry by multiple individuals, we have developed guidelines which are available as a pdf-file on the Web. These Guidelines present a description of the UMAC Worldwide Database as far as its structure and categories are concerned. Their purpose is to provide content format rules and therefore ensure terminological coherency and accurate information access and retrieval by users.
So far, only a few people have had the opportunity to test the database. There are still a lot of questions to answer and problems to solve, which we want to discuss in detail with the working group "directories". After incorporating the results of the discussion, we can start distributing logins and passwords to those UMAC members who want to enter data about their country or state. However, for reasons of organization, it is not possible to give a login to each UMAC member.
The UMAC Worldwide Database is like a business card which can help promote university collections and museums. Therefore, we believe that all UMAC members have a stake in supporting this undertaking. How can you help us?
1. We want you to test the database and give us feedback on terminological, conceptual and technical problems.
2. We want to encourage UMAC members to enter data for a certain state, country or even continent.
3. We need strong support for developing the object thesaurus. This means: knowledge about existing thesauri in any disciplines and know-how about conceiving such an index.
The best way would be to form a special task force with collection-holders from different academic disciplines to establish a specific UMAC project (and which would try to apply for a grant).
The success of this database depends on your support and collaboration! That is why we ask you to participate in this particular undertaking.
We would like to express our sincere appreciation to Martin Stricker who provided the essential technical prerequisite and accompanied the process of development with great engagement and brilliant ideas. We also thank Bernard van den Driessche who tested the database by entering data from collections and museums in different countries.