Half of the museums planning to publish their collection online in 2016 have done it…… Did the other half give up?
This is the second year that Vernon Systems has surveyed New Zealand and Australian Museums about how they share their collections online. While the response is encouraging, these results only represent a small segment of Australasian Museums. This year we had 73 responses, and last year the number was 79, from a possible 500 that were sent the survey. That is just 14.6%.
The museums that did respond were, once again, mostly Social History collections. This is consistent as approximately 60% of museums identify as Social History collections. There are fewer Fine Art collections in the results this year, and the ‘Other’ collection type increased a corresponding 10%.
The size of the collections is similar in 2017 as in 2016. If anything there are fewer museums in the survey with collections less than 1000 objects. This is unfortunate as these relatively smaller museums represent a large proportion of museums.
When looking at how museums record their collections the only a significant change is Filemaker Pro. This 7% drop in museums using Filemaker Pro to record their collection may be a product of museums moving away from bespoke databases in favour of more standardised options.
The category ‘Other’ has risen 10% in the 2017 results. When looking closer this ‘Other’ methods of recording include 10 answers out of 16 that could be considered as Commercial Collection Management Software. This includes eHive (x6) and Vernon CMS (x2).
It should be noted that Question 3: ‘How do you record collection data?’ allowed the respondents to choose one or more options.
Central to this survey is the question ‘Do you share collection data? The results for this question show a significant change between 2016 and 2017. While the sample group may be small, there is a noticeable change in the museums that reported they were planning to publish their collection online. More have either succeeded in publishing their collections, or are not currently planning to put their collections online.
The results show that museums planning to publish their collections have reduced from 40% in 2016 to 24% in 2017. The story told by the data is that 8% of museums are no longer are in the planning stages, but have successfully published their collections.
An almost 10% rise in museums choosing the ‘No’ response leads to the conclusion that at present some museums have found the barriers to publishing their collection too high.
Questions 5 looks deeper into how much of the collections are being published. The result shows a slow but consistent increase in the percentage of collections being shared online.
This is shown with a 5% increase the response “A large proportion (more that 20%, but not all records)”. This is an expected result as museums improve their digital records and become more open about sharing their collections.
When compiling the 2017 museums survey we revisited the questions that we posed in 2016. The first five questions above were carried over from the previous survey, and we added two new questions. The first of these new questions; “How do you allow access to your collection data?” is to find out more about how the museum collection is shared online.
Respondents could choose one or more answer to Question 6. The most popular way to allow access to collections is via a public website with 53% of respondents. This is followed by 3rd party websites such as Digital NZ and Trove.
An interesting group of responses can be found in the ‘Other’ category. About 70% of these responses were manual methods of sharing collection data. Often onsite they describe requests for information that are carried out by a staff member.
When compared to Question 4 we can see that collection data is being shared without that information being published online. In Question 4, 52% of museums answered “No” or “No, but we are planning to”. In Question 6, 31% of respondents indicated that they do not allow access to their collections. The 21% difference indicates that museums are allowing access to their collections through direct requests.
The final question examines the staff allocation to online collections. Museums have a range of specialist roles, and we were interested to see if this culture of specialisation would continue to online collections. Do museums consider online collections important enough to dedicate staff to its administration? This role definition gives an indication of how important the entire collection is to each museum.
This survey of museums has shown that more museums have published their collections online in 2017 than in 2016. Of those that are sharing online, they are sharing more. Also, a significant number of museums (around 15%) have found the barriers to publishing their collection online too hard. Of those collections published online, more of the collections are available. Question 5 clearly shows an increase from 13% to 17% for more than 20% of the collection available online. From our new questions (Questions 6 & 7) we have learnt that the public website is the most popular channel for sharing collections. The category included the acknowledgement that sharing collections includes interactions with staff members.