April 15-18, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Demonstrations: Description

The Reciprocal Research Network

Nicholas Jakobsen, Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Canada
Ulrike Radermacher, University of British Columbia, Canada
Andrea Sanborn, U’mista Cultural Society, Canada
Leona Sparrow, Musqueam Indian Band, Canada
Ryan Wallace, University of British Columbia, Canada
Susan Rowley, University of British Columbia, Canada
Dave Schaepe, Stó:lō Research and Resource Management, Canada

The Reciprocal Research Network (RRN) is an innovative, online, museum research tool. Scheduled to launch in November 2009, we will demonstrate a sophisticated fully functional pilot site at mw2009.

The Reciprocal Research Network (RRN) is an open-source, web-based, federated museum information system. It allows geographically dispersed users to conduct individual and collaborative research on cultural objects held in multiple institutions simultaneously. A two-way exchange of knowledge is a key component of the RRN. Users can add their own knowledge, as well as learn from previously accumulated knowledge contained by the system. The RRN’s social networking functions will facilitate collaboration and reciprocal communication across knowledge systems.

The network is currently co-developed by the Musqueam Indian Band, the Stó:lō Nation/Tribal Council, the U’mista Cultural Society, and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia. A number of cultural institutions in North American and Europe are partners in the project.

During the development we have been exploring and testing methods to overcome some common issues faced by museums undertaking similar projects. One challenge lies in developing a virtual network that can access and combine the diverse collection management systems of the participating communities and museums; it needs to address a variety of different standards for terminology, data management and classifications. Another challenge is the requirement for a user interface able to support comprehensive search explorations, yet intuitive enough that those with limited computer skills can use it. A third challenge lies in creating a system that facilitates partner institution contributions and is both achievable and sustainable in terms of human resources and finances. Finally and most importantly is the creation of an environment that allows users to develop the trust relationships necessary to use the system and share information. Throughout the development process, the RRN must respond to continuous feedback from the co-developers and partners, and be tested on a regular basis for usability and robustness.

Our demonstration will present the RRN in its current state, showcasing its innovative features and providing interesting technical details where appropriate. The live demo will focus on the RRN's faceted search capabilities, as well as the initial stages of the social networking and collaborative research tools provided by the RRN. Some of the key features to be presented include: map-based search capabilities, object tagging, web-based voice recording features, and fine-grained privacy controls for user data. In addition, some of the research projects already completed using the RRN will be discussed, along with user feedback and a list of features to be incorporated into the RRN before its launch.

Demonstration: Demonstrations 1 [Close Up]

Keywords: Interactive data access, Exploratory search, Collaborative research tools, Social networking, Data mapping, Co-development