Texas Digital Library Conference System, TCDL 2012

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Enhancing Educational Access to Art
Jessica Higgins, Unmil P. Karadkar, Karen Pavelka, Catherine Zinser

Last modified: 2012-04-18


On campus art museums bring value to the university community by serving as custodians of paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings and by providing instructors with access to rare artifacts of cultural significance. While the museum staff is committed to helping faculty locate items of interest, they are hard pressed for time and do not always possess the domain-specific vocabulary used by instructors in diverse disciplines. The disconnect between artifacts that are organized by museum professionals but used by faculty in various disciplines affects the use of these artifacts. We aim to address this issue by enhancing a collection of prints and drawings at the Blanton Museum of Art with a rich, domain-specific description that meets the expectations of a multi-disciplinary faculty. The acclaimed collection of the Blanton museum includes over 13,000 artifacts and supports education in a variety of disciplines. The collection manager provides access to specific prints and drawings upon request from this closed collection. The metadata related to the prints can be accessed only through computers situated in the museum, further limiting access to it. Thus, instructors are unable to browse the collection at their convenience and rely heavily on the Blanton staff to provide suggestions for relevant works. This practice results in a small pool of items being viewed repeatedly, while other prints of interest go unnoticed.

Taking a used-centered design approach, we have created a prototype repository of richly described artifacts from this collection. The descriptive metadata is informed by results of faculty interviews in the areas of Art, Art History, French, and Architecture. The repository is created using an open source repository software, called CollectiveAccess, and the metadata uses the Getty Institute’s CDWA Lite schema. The resulting repository is thus based on open standards, improving the potential for its use by various demographics on campus, as well as, improving its visibility for remote users and repositories through interoperability protocols.

We are currently evaluating this prototype repository. In the first stage, we are evaluating our design with the help of the instructors who set the expectations for this repository. This evaluation will help us fine tune the interface features, repository architecture, as well as our use of the CDWA Lite schema.


Repository application, CDWA Lite, Descriptive metadata, relational metadata