Tech challenges and opportunities
I work at a small museum that interprets the history of a hospital. We are located in the hospital, but we are administered by the hospital’s nonprofit auxiliary, which manages volunteers and provides clothing for folks in need, among their other projects. So, we are at the bottom of the hierarchy, literally, since our space is in the basement.
Currently we’re using PastPerfect 3.0 to manage our collections. PP3 is okay, but PP4 has much more useful functionalities, and we actually own PP4. I even went to a training on PP4. So, why are we still using PP3? Because all of the IT folks are working on the Electronic Health Records projects. We have had a work order in for more than a year. My colleagues have said, and I’ve agreed, that our data is too important to risk losing by switching over to PP4 inappropriately. Is this something I could do myself? Any ideas? Maybe I’ll call up PastPerfect and ask them.
Besides cataloguing our object collections, I’ve been scanning and describing our photo collection, which is terrific, photos of nurses and doctors and patients and procedures from 1900 to the present. Pending our board’s approval, I’m putting in a proposal for us to work with the Minnesota Digital Library. They will digitize up to 500 images for us, including slides and lantern slides, or up to 1250 pages of documents, and share them on Minnesota Reflections, which “brings you over 10,000 images and documents shared by over sixty cultural heritage organizations across the state. This site offers a broad view of Minnesota’s history for researchers, educators, students, and the public.”
It’s a fabulous resource, and an amazing opportunity for a small historical society. Among the benefits: they scan the photos for us so I can spend my staff time on other projects; our photos are accessible for the first time to folks outside the hospital; we get a higher profile, with links to our website and collection; and everyone can learn more about the history of medicine in Minneapolis. The only downside is that we need to provide the metadata for the scanned items, which we would be doing anyway when we catalogued them on PP (and by ‘we’ I mean me.) This seems like a fabulous project in other ways, especially in connecting the collections of cultural resource organizations of all types–museums, archives, historical societies, universities, libraries. One thing I think museums and historical societies can take from libraries is the enormous benefits of consortiums and networking. In a small museum with no promotional budget, digital networking projects can not only make collections accessible to the public, but also make your small museum part of a larger project that might attract new visitors. I’m excited to hook our museum into the network.