3. Online Access, Collection Navigation and Long-term Management

Researchers often wish to share research data online but lack tools and technical support. In the absence (at that time), of institutional data management services, Colley adopted sound desktop data management practices, but could not readily enable access for research partners.

The University of Sydney Library offers a digital archiving service using the dSpace platform. This provided a means to share the fish collection online through a professionally managed open access repository, accompanied by a commitment on the Library's part to maintain ongoing access.

There were, however, issues around metadata and interactivity. The repository's default metadata schema is based on Dublin Core. Although appropriate for bibliographic description of traditional publication formats comprising the majority of repository content, it proved less suitable for describing fish-bone images (Brownlee 2009a). It offered only a simple keyword search and was not designed for sophisticated manipulation of objects.

The current Archaeological Fish-Bone Images site was developed by Brownlee. Each item is citable through persistent identifiers provided by the Australian National Data Service and collection visibility is aided by registration of the collection with Research Data Australia.

Based on the eXtensible Text Framework, the site enjoys improved presentation and interaction. Key features of XTF include the ability to cater for a wide range of metadata sets, extensive indexing and very fast search and retrieval. It also supports hierarchical faceted browsing, enabling a user to drill into a collection, following taxonomic pathways established by content creators. For background on faceted browsing, see the Berkeley Search Interface Project.

Used elsewhere by Brownlee for media collections in plant sciences and visual arts, XTF is highly configurable and can be integrated with other web technologies, such as the Flash-based 'Zoomify' tool, allowing magnification of areas of an image (Brownlee 2009b). Providing a fundamental level of collection access, the current site represents a step toward a system that would ideally enable greater sophistication in content presentation, manipulation and analysis.


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