Thursday 27 November 2008

Meeting the Needs of Researchers in Museums

David Dawson draws attention to a report released online by the Research Information Network which addresses the problem of how museums can better support the needs of researchers including those interested in examining archaeological objects in the reserve collections.There are a number of recommendations which impinge on topics which have been raised by collectors of portable antiquities in their rhetoric extolling the academic advantages of the "in a heap on my table" model over the "locked away in reserve collections in museum basements".

Two of them are of particular interest in this context.
The first is that the report says that all museums and other collections should make the research data in their content management systems available online as soon as possible, without waiting until backlogs are cleared or records improved to levels of perceived 'perfection'.
The other is that museums and other collections should develop and publish (for example on their websites) a 'researchers' charter', including clear policies on the arrangements for visits by researchers and covering other areas such as the support and facilities available for browsing collections, handling objects, sampling and testing, and loans. As an example, Dawson draws attention to the webpage for researchers of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.
The report also recommends putting information about the collections online. Dawson reports that the above-mentioned museum found this to be relatively straightforward and inexpensive and that jt paid for itself in terms of staff time saved in answering enquiries and has made the collections better known.

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