Title:Bringing Books Online
Authors:Greg Albers
Publication:MW2017: Museums and the Web 2017

In 2009, the Getty Foundation launched the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) to convene and fund a cohort of eight participating museums exploring the possibility of publishing scholarly catalogues online. Six years later it was an undeniable success because all eight museums had produced online catalogues, and all eight were planning to publish more. The question for the museums, and for many others in the field watching the initiative's progress, was no longer whether museums should publish scholarly catalogues online, rather it was how best to do it.

As reported by OSCI participants directly, and as seen in a number of subsequent user studies, there were three particular challenges many of the first catalogues faced, namely discoverability, longevity, and objectness. In other words, how are these books found, how are they maintained, and how do readers understand their boundaries and their status as formal publications. These challenges give us a roadmap to building the next generation of online publications, particularly by focusing on metadata best practices, multiple-format and static-site publishing, plain-text source material, transparent version control, and thoughtful UI. This paper delves into the lessons the community of museum digital publishers has learned so far, and begins to chart a course for the future.