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Thursday, November 5 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
Which Came First, the Data Structure or the Website? Lessons Learned in Building a New Collections Website with Existing Collections Data

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The Henry Ford has gone through several distinct historical phases with its collections data and related media:

The Dawn of Time (c. 1929): All collections information lived on paper.

The Stone Age (c. 1980s): We began to use tools—like electronic databases. We made up rules to follow, but we were the only ones who saw the data, and therefore we were the only ones who knew how carefully we were following the rules.

The Industrial Revolution (c. 1990s): New tools became available! The Internet was born! We scanned photos and letters and documents. We took pictures of objects, got back electronic files, and threw them onto LaserDisc or one-off websites—how easy it was to create a website when you wanted one! We really went crazy, but we still didn’t have to be too careful with how we tracked things, or being standard from one project to the next, as we were still the only ones who saw the raw data and media—and those websites the public did see, let us tell you, looked super-slick and awesome! Production of “stuff” skyrocketed.

The Progressive Era (c. 2011): We needed to get this train back on the rails. We needed to hunker down and really figure out this “digitization” thing that everyone else was already doing. We needed one comprehensive collections website, where users could find all of our digital collections records. We needed to establish standards, protocols, workflows—to productionize the whole process of making our collections information available. So we did. And it was great.

The Information Age (c. 2015): We decided to build a new collections website. And we began to discover how far we still had to go.This presentation will focus on that last period: the process we’re currently in to totally rebuild our collections website, and what that’s showing us about our “standard” collections metadata and images. With nearly 40,000 objects from our collection digitized, we’re looking at what else we need to do to ensure robust and reusable data going forward—and considering the possible need to go back and modify those 40,000 records as well.For example, just one new feature, automated ecommerce for collections images, requires a complete overhaul of the way we format, edit, organize, and deliver images (as well as video and audio). Building support for new types of multimedia (3D models, 360-degree photography) requires yet further data structure and workflow extensions, and redesigning collections records brings up additional questions. Are our object titles too long? Can credit lines be appropriately displayed in a visual-forward presentation? How do we support multimedia at appropriate varying resolutions for phone, tablet, or desktop users?

This presentation will take the challenges The Henry Ford faced in using its existing collections data structure to create a completely new collections website, and distill those into advice (and cautions) for other institutions that may be looking to overhaul their digital collections site.

avatar for Scott Sayre

Scott Sayre

Chief Digital, Information and Education Officer, Corning Museum of Glass
As Director of Digital Media, Information Technology and Education and Interpretation at the Corning Museum of Glass, I am responsible for developing new strategies for and overseeing the Museum’s educational and digital programs onsite and online. I am also an MCN Board Member... Read More →

avatar for Ellice Engdahl

Ellice Engdahl

Digital Collections & Content Manager, The Henry Ford

Thursday November 5, 2015 2:30pm - 3:00pm CST
Nokomis Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403

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