3 Museum catalogues

In her seminal 1997 paper entitled "Linking Text and Image Databases in GENREG: A Multi-media Museum Management System at the National Museum of Denmark", Lene Rold describes the problems involved in creating a database based on the card-based inventory catalogues of the National Museum of Denmark, especially outlining the problems involved in linking images to the records. While it is quite easy to link a set of images to an inventory number, it is problematic to make more fine-grained matches. She discusses a proposed system where it is possible to link images to parts of the objects found at an inventory number and states in conclusion:

We certainly have no problem in programming such a solution, but we have to be aware that as the system becomes more sophisticated in dealing with various documentation problems, it also demands more specialist knowledge on the user's part. It is not evident that a photographer can distinguish between two different motives on an altarpiece. [...] So we are actually faced with a problem which cannot be solved by curational and documentary logic, but has to be considered from an organizational point of view - e.g. who are actually in charge of the documentation, and are these people the same who actually enter the information in the electronic system.

We have seen similar problems in our museum catalogue work in Norway. If an inventory number in the acquisition catalogues states that the objects in a particular container includes two parts from a sword and three parts from a dagger, whereas another description of the same inventory number made 50 years later states that the objects in the very same container includes three parts from a sword and one part each from two daggers, how do we know which is which? As illustrated in figure 2, it is quite easy to connect at the main catalogue number level, but more difficult at the artifact level.

Figure 2
Figure 2 Hierarchy from Museum to Museum Object. (Click on thumbnail to view)


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s)
University of York legal statements | Terms and Conditions | File last updated: Tue Sep 6 2005