Whether they collect art or insects, museums across campus rely on collection management systems to provide the mission-critical platform for managing their collected objects and facilitating collections-based research. An earlier iNews article, Collection management systems for campus museums, described some of the challenges faced by campus museums and their IT partners, and announced a major project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to develop a web-based, open-source solution via an international collaboration with UC Berkeley as a major partner. At the beginning of July 2009, the CollectionSpace project (formerly called Advancing OpenCollection) announced its first release.
Hello World release
As described on the project's website, version 0.1, or the Hello World release of CollectionSpace, is now live and online. You are invited, welcome, and encouraged to play with the demo and provide your feedback to the project team. The general announcement from Project Director Carl Goodman (of New York's Museum of the Moving Image) contains instructions on how to access the demo site and provide feedback. The most current release of CollectionSpace will always be posted on the Current Release page of the project site. Two CollectionSpace mailing lists, Announcements and Talk, are a great way to stay informed about CollectionSpace.
The primary goal of this release is to demonstrate that the service, application, and user interface layers of this system can work together as an integrated whole. This effort has required careful coordination among the international project team members in order to configure the development and testing environments and lay the foundation for the agile delivery of future releases. In terms of functionality, the Hello World release allows users to create a new object record, view and edit existing records, and save any changes. At this same time, significant progress has been made in the design of screens and overall navigation via design wireframes. The wireframe presentation, Create New Object, demonstrates the emerging CollectionSpace vision for functionality and navigation. More information about future releases is available on the project wiki (see Project Roadmap — Incremental Releases and Functional Team Home).
The date for completion of CollectionSpace 1.0, with all of its required functionality added in, tested by users, and refined according to user feedback, is the end of May 2010. UC Berkeley's Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology is one of the flagship early adoption institutions, and is actively engaged with testing and defining CollectionSpace. Developers and architects in Information Services and Technology (IST) are working with staff and leadership in other museums on campus to assess the role of CollectionSpace and to ensure it meets our collective needs. The functional fit for cultural heritage museums is very clear. The Berkeley Natural History Museums (BNHM) — IST Partnership is watching CollectionSpace closely to see if this platform will work for natural history museums. As CollectionSpace unfolds, it is our vision that it will increasingly play an important role in collections management on campus.
CollectionSpace claims some additional ambitious goals. First and foremost, CollectionSpace is a community-source project based on collaboration, sustainability, and partnerships. The key partners are UC Berkeley (Information Services and Technology), Museum of the Moving Image (New York), University of Cambridge's Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET), and University of Toronto's Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (Fluid). However, the core focus is on the community of museums and other collections institutions that CollectionSpace will serve.
Second, the technologies behind CollectionSpace bring together best-of-breed open-source technologies to build a system that combines the promise of enterprise class SOA (service-oriented architecture) with the configurability and flexibility needed by museums and the research community. The technical team is composed of architects, designers, and developers from all four partner organizations, and is structured around three main work areas:
- Services — services analysis, modeling, and development.
- Accessibility — user interface design and development.
- Application development — application-level design and development.
Here at UC Berkeley, the CollectionSpace services team is heavily involved in IT architecture and emerging work on SOA governance and reuse.
Finally, the methodologies and project tools being employed in the CollectionSpace project are providing invaluable experience in how to conduct agile multi-institution community-source projects.
While ambitious, the CollectionSpace project with its Hello World release is on track to provide a collection management system that can serve the needs of a broad range of museums. IST will work closely with the CollectionSpace project team, as well as with campus museums, to ensure that this solution will be one that helps us manage, study, and share the world-class collections for which UC Berkeley is responsible.
Please contact Chris Hoffman, if you have questions or comments about CollectionSpace on campus.