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Functional Requirements for Exhibit Management Systems

TitleFunctional Requirements for Exhibit Management Systems
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsOvermire, R.
Secondary TitleArchives and Museum Informatics Technical Reports
Pages127 pp
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedPittsburgh
TypeTechnical Report
ISSN Number1042-1459
Keywordsarchives, art museum, case study, computerization, computers, digitization, exhibit management, exhibit management systems, exhibit process, functional requirements, informatics, museums, need, newsletter, technical report, travelling exhibit automation

From the Introduction:

"Exhibit planning and preparation in museums is a complex balancing act, involving many museum personnel. To expedite the planning process, museum staff need to have an efficient record management program. Even more complex are travelling exhibits, developed in-house or borrowed from other museums. Originating and recipient staff must coordinate donors, governmental agencies, transportation companies and funding agencies.

A well-planned computer system containing the information used in planning and preparing an exhibit provides a distinct advantage over the present manual method. A computer database can help organize information, assist curators and administrators in combining their efforts, and save time and costs. Also, automation in exhibits planning could make future exhibits more effective.

This report defines exhibit management through its various activities, explains the use of exhibit software support in museums, and compares systems currently used for exhibits. Relationships between collection management and exhibit systems are examined.

The author discusses the exhibit process, through a survey of current literature on the subject. Art museums use different structures in database systems to manage and document exhibits than science and history museums. By following the paperwork trail of acquisition, administration and reference, a structure for automation emerges. Forms and data elements are suggested as aids in designing exhibit automation.

This report is based on a survey and case study undertaken for a masters thesis at John F. Kennedy University in San Francisco. It had three purposes. First, to study the demands of travelling exhibits systems and the needs these demands create for data standards. A proposed set of minimum data standards for travelling exhibit management in a medium-sized to large art museum is set forth in the Data Dictionary, Appendix A. Second, to develop recommendations for a more integrated system of travelling exhibit information flow. Recommendations are in Chapter III and IV of this report. And third, to suggest ways that computers can be more useful in the exhibit process by being a part of the everyday information flow, with staff putting in and retrieving information from the system on a daily basis.

To plan an exhibits system, the author first sent out a questionnaire to survey present automated systems used in art museums throughout the United States. And second, made a case study and needs assessment to explain how a travelling exhibit database system could be produced in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The role of automation within exhibits, as a presentation medium on the exhibit floor, has been omitted in this report. It deserves a full study on its own merits. Recent articles in the Fall-Winter 1987 Museum Studies Journal have approached the topic. Howard Besser's “Digital Images for Museums” explains how the University Art Museum in Berkeley provides visitors the chance to dip into the collection database and view other works of the artist on display, with an electronic workstation. James Beniger's “High Tech - The Dilemma for Museums” discusses the pros and cons of the Greek Vase Videodisk Project at the Getty Museum. And the “Resources” section has fourteen “Systems and Projects for Exhibition, Education, and Communication” that show the range of electronic exhibits."

Citation Key10390