SPEC Kit 333: Art & Artifact Management  · 13
Toolkit; Finding aids including EAD; Database devel-
oped and maintained by the library; or Spreadsheets
such as Excel. Respondents were also given the op-
tion to name other tools. While other tools were men-
tioned, the options provided on the survey were the
most widely used, particularly the ILS and finding
Many institutions reported digital asset manage-
ment tools in the “other (please specify)” category.
CONTENTdm was the most frequently mentioned,
along with some other image or digital resource man-
agement tools. This is interesting as the survey was
intended to focus on the management of physical
objects. Future work could delve more deeply into the
connections between intellectual control of physical
objects and their digital surrogates. Certainly there
are important issues around description and access
when physical objects are digitized. For the purpos-
es of this study, the focus remained on comments
and responses related to management of physical
Tools for Managing Art Collections
Finding aids were the most frequently used tool for
managing art collections (43 of 60 respondents holding
art collections, or 72%). MARC records in a library’s
catalog were used by 35 of the institutions (58%). Also
frequently used were library-developed databases (26
respondents, or 43%) and spreadsheets (25, or 42%).
This indicates libraries are using the available and
familiar tools.
Systems designed for the purpose of managing
collections were not widely used. Twenty respon-
dents (33%) use archival management systems like
Archivists’ Toolkit. Even fewer reported using a mu-
seum collection management system in order to cata-
log art (11 responses, or 18%). Nine of these use Past
Perfect; two use TMS (Gallery Systems Inc.)
Several respondents specifically pointed out that
the tools they use are no different from those they
employ for their other materials. For example, “We are
not using any special tool for art objects; we use the
same tools as we use for archives, manuscripts, and
books within Special Collections.” This response indi-
cates another finding; that many institutions are using
more than one tool. Only 12 of the 60 institutions (20%)
holding art works use only one tool; of these, four are
using a museum collection management system and
four a local database. Nine of the institutions (15%)
are using five different tools. On average, institutions
are using three different tools to manage art objects.
Within these tools, institutions are clearly describ-
ing art at both collection and item level. Collection
records describe materials as a group. In comparison,
item records describe one object. For example, 32 insti-
tutions (53% of the 60 respondents holding art objects)
are using their ILS to describe art objects; all of them
do so at the collection level, while 23 institutions also
have item-level records in their library catalogs. Of
the 55 total responses to the question about collec-
tion or item level descriptions, 94% of respondents
create collection-level records and 93% create item-
level records. Therefore, institutions are consistently
providing both levels of description.
In the questions that explore why several tools
might be used, the key issues fell into two categories:
characteristics of the objects and the resources avail-
able. Over 70% make the determination of the tool to
use based on the nature of collection; about half base
the tool on the material type. For 57% of respondents,
the staff and resources are a key aspect of this deci-
sion. Respondents commented, “Various tools have
been available to us over time. Choices have been
made regarding the best tool for the job at any given
time” and “We have not had a systematic approach
to this in the past.”
When considering variety of tools and levels of
description, it is not surprising that a wide range of
public access options are used. Significantly, 23% of
respondents do not display any information about
art collections to the public, and in 12% of cases the
user must be on site to access a database. When infor-
mation is available online, over 50% of respondents
indicated they offer access through documents on
websites and in library catalogs. For about 40% of re-
spondents, a web-accessible public search of another
type of tool is available.
Tools for Managing Artifact Collections
The overall distribution of tools used to manage ar-
tifacts was very similar to those used for art objects.
Finding aids and MARC records remained the top two
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