Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


Demonstration of a Web Based Thesaurus

Daphne Charles , Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, United Kingdom

Session: Demonstrations 2

The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) is England's lead body for heritage records and survey. It also plays a major role in the development of national recording standards and terminology control. Increasingly at the forefront of museum documentation issues, the importance of standards is recognized as the basis for effective retrieval and resource discovery.

RCHME's Oracle database plays host to a number of nationally accepted thesauri which are continually developing to meet new challenges in the heritage field. These include the Thesaurus of Object Types (>2,000 terms) developed in partnership with the Museums Documentation Association, and the Thesaurus of Monument Types (>6,000 terms) developed in conjunction with English Heritage. Published in conventional paper form, this is the basis for Architectural and Archaeological monument inventory recording nationally. We also maintain a series of more focussed thesauri such as Building Materials, developed in support of a program to computerize details of c.500,000 of England's most significant historic 'listed' buildings.

In our drive to disseminate standards and promote their wider adoption, RCHME has sought to overcome the limitations of traditional paper publication, which can be costly to produce, distribute and renew. A suite of programs has therefore been developed which uses the database to create a series of static web pages for any chosen thesaurus. These can be refreshed with minimal intervention whenever an updated version is required.

The demonstration will concentrate on the web version of one thesaurus. By using frames, this product allows the user to view the alphabetic entry alongside the class listing, thus putting it into hierarchical context. Other thesauri available on the web do not currently offer this facility. The methodology chosen, which does not require a database to view the output, also allows its distribution and use by anyone with a web-browser.