Artefacts and archives: Considering cross-collection knowledge networks in museums

Mike Jones, The University of Melbourne/Museum Victoria, Australia

Abstract

Archival material often provides the context required by curators, researchers, and other users working with material objects, contributing to new narratives and richer understanding. Artefacts and archives are already linked physically in exhibition spaces and intellectually in catalogues, books, and articles. Yet when it comes to collection management, many institutions keep artefacts and archives physically, conceptually, and organisationally separate. For museums, this leads to an over-reliance on implicit knowledge; and for online users it means expansive digital collections are often presented decontextualised. In this paper, the author will examine the recent history and current status of intersecting artefacts and archives in museums—on the Web and in supporting systems—drawing on institutional and project-based examples from Australia and internationally. Through a better understanding of the intersection of these collections and the systems and data structures used to manage them, we can lay the foundations for future developments that will both maintain necessary distinctions in museum and archival practice and create new ways of digitally capturing, managing, and disseminating interconnected collection knowledge within and beyond our institutions.

Keywords: collections management, museum systems, archives, online context, contextual information networks

1. Introduction

Though museum artefacts and archives are increasingly available to researchers and other users online, network-based collection knowledge that fully incorporates objects and documents remains elusive. Since the 1960s, museum systems have changed substantially with the emergence of automation, the development of computerised collection management systems, and the move toward major institutions publishing ever-increasing proportions of their collections on the Web. During the same period, archivists began to highlight issues with the way museums were managing their manuscripts, institutional records, and other documentary collections; theorists and practitioners from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (the GLAM sector) discussed the idea of disciplinary convergence; and, most recently, new approaches to the digital dissemination of collection materials have brought artefacts, specimens, and archives into shared online environments.

While all have moved the sector forward, limitations remain. Effective systems for archival documentation are rarely built in conjunction with other collection management systems; museum archives have achieved prominence largely by emphasising what makes them distinct from “core” museum collections; convergence literature is more concerned with inter-institutional federation and accumulation than the building of networked knowledge; and digital dissemination has not fully embraced the possibilities of cross-collection networks. This paper draws on examples from Australian and international institutions and GLAM-sector literature to highlight some of the limitations of current practice. The conclusion proposes that further research and development is required to move toward systems that can effectively capture collection-based knowledge networks for the benefit of internal and external users.

The term “archives” is used throughout to refer to what are often disparate collections of records, including administrative and institutional documents, reference collections, research files, and material donated or acquired as part of other collections (Wythe, 2004; Smith, 1995). Similarly, the term “artefacts” is used to refer primarily to objects or items held by museums that have been made or used by people. Though natural history specimens are not explicitly included in the scope of this article, many of the ideas presented are applicable more broadly.

2. Silent artefacts, invisible archives

Founded in 1753, the British Museum holds over nine million artefacts. Among them is a small set of Tasmanian stone tools donated by the Reverend Christopher George Wilkinson in 1901, including a hammerstone from Port Sorell (Museum number Oc1901,-.11) that provides a useful illustration of a widespread issue. The Museum’s “Collection online” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx) does not include an image for the stone, and only basic metadata—findspot, materials, dimensions, donor name, and similar—is provided. Other Tasmanian tools donated by Wilkinson five years later include digital images and specify they were “Made by Indigenous Australian” (for example, Museum number Oc1906,0620.34) but still provide little to engage the general user. If many find museum objects unaccompanied by labels, narrative, or explanatory text mute (Vergo, 1989; Alberti, 2005), these Tasmanian stone tools are not given the opportunity to speak.

In the archives of another section of the museum, now administratively separated from numerous artefacts once held in the same department, is a box of inbound correspondence that includes a letter from Wilkinson dated April 18, 1901, sent in advance of his package of stones. The letter is over 1,250 words long and includes information about Wilkinson’s searches along the coastline of Tasmania, interpretation of the marks found on the “kidney-shaped” stones (including the hammerstone) sent to the British Museum, commentary about elements of Ling Roth’s work on the Aborigines of Tasmania, passages that note that other artefacts from the same area were sent to York, and even information about how the stones would be transported, “direct to London by the apple boats which call in Hobart” (Wilkinson, 1901).

When brought together, the letter and hammerstone start to provide historical insight into the interpretation of stone tools, Aboriginal culture in Tasmania, and early twentieth-century collecting and anthropology, topped with the evocative image of the artefacts making their way to England on a boat laden with fruit. Without this context, the user has only a sparse entry among more than 2.2 million other collection records. The stone remains silent, and the letter invisible.

Understanding the problem

The example of the Port Sorell hammerstone and Wilkinson’s letter is illustrative of the problem created by the way artefacts and archives have been managed in the past, one which can be broken down into four interrelated issues.

First, as shown above, collection items become detached from the narratives and contexts of which they are a part. Contemporary exhibition spaces have changed substantially over the years, today bringing together the work of curators, designers, educators, and technologists who employ text, photography, video, interactive elements, and more. However, the bulk of online collections are populated from underlying databases, and curation of full collections is unrealistic. For items such as Wilkinson’s hammerstone, connections to its documentary context—either directly or via shared entries describing Wilkinson, Tasmania, Aboriginal stone tools, or other contextual entities—would go some way toward alleviating this. Without such context, the issue of mute, disembodied artefacts, bemoaned by the frequently quoted bookseller William Hutton in the early days of the British Museum (Vergo, 1989), has reemerged online.

Second, many of the systems used by museums do not support explicit, navigable links between objects and documents. Therefore, the potential to record contextual information found in archives is limited and the process for doing so labour intensive. If information about the Wilkinson letter were recorded, it would likely be as a partial reference in plain text, as seen with a wooden cannibal fork from Fiji (Museum number Oc1920,0709.1) that includes a “Curator’s comment” referring to a letter in the archive along with a short extract. There is no way to find out more about the letter, the rest of its contents, or the context from which it has come; and including these curator’s comments involves a process of review, text selection (along with exclusion), and transcription by museum staff—an approach that is by its nature partial and resource intensive.

Third, where connections are known but not recorded, institutions are relying on the implicit knowledge of their staff and are missing out on opportunities to capture and manage information about their collections uncovered by others. The British Museum has known of the connection between the Port Sorell stone and Wilkinson’s letter since 1901. Charles H. Read from the Museum wrote to Wilkinson that year, opening with the following: “I am greatly indebted to you for your long letter of 18th of April, which has interested me very much. I hope to receive in a short time the box of implements, when I will examine them with your letter at hand” (Read, 1901). As the connection was not recorded, it is possible the link was forgotten until, over a century later, historian Rebe Taylor visited the Museum and pieced together catalogue entries and archival documents, effectively reconnecting the letter and stone. Once again, this link was not captured. Therefore, future curators and other users will only be able to examine the implements with the letter “at hand” if they go through the whole process of searching for related documentation, locating the letter, and establishing the connection again, rather than having the opportunity to start where Read or Taylor left off and building on that knowledge.

Fourth, the link between collection documentation and evidence for the details recorded therein is not maintained. C.C. Black (1978) wrote of the two primary types of cataloguing data in museums: “inherent” and “attributed” data. While the former (properties like dimensions, materials or colour) can be verified or recreated by retrieving the object, attributed data (such as the time and place of collection) cannot. Evidence for this lies elsewhere, in field notebooks, acquisition registers, or correspondence. The Wilkinson letter is evidence for key attributed data about the Port Sorell hammerstone and could be cited as a primary source, enhancing the scholarly authority of the collection management database and the online catalogue it populates.

Despite these issues, the British Museum continues to treat its objects and specimens as separate from manuscripts, which in turn are separate from published works. These divisions go back to the founding of the institution (The British Museum, 2014). Archival collections such as the one containing the Wilkinson letter are also largely undocumented, requiring an on-site visit and physical access to the contents. But the British Museum lags behind many other institutions in this regard, and elsewhere in the sector the problem of separate collections has been recognised and progress made, both in theory and practice.

Museums and archives in theory

Museum archives first became a visible focus in the United States when the Archives of American Art sponsored a conference on the subject in December 1979 (“Conference on Museum Archives”). This was followed by the establishment of the Society of American Archivists’ Task Force on Museum Archives in 1981 and the publication of a guide to museum archives and their management by William A. Deiss in 1984 (Smith, 1995; Wythe, 2004; Deiss, 1984). Over the next 30 years, there have been several conference presentations, journal articles, and special issues on museum archives, with sector support provided by a Code of Practice on Archives for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom, a second, wholly new, edition of Museum Archives in the United States (2004), and the recent release of the British-focused Records Management for Museums and Galleries (Fleckner, 1986; Smith, 1995; Bain, 1991; Hartt, 1991; Kane, 1991; Short, 2000; Wythe, 2004; Brunskill & Demb, 2012). But while many of these note the value of well-managed records, their belief that museum archives had been neglected in the past means the emphasis is less on connecting collections within institutions and more on the need for separate storage, a dedicated archivist, effective archival (as distinct from museum) documentation, and an awareness of the value of these collections to researchers. Where Smith argued, “The museum approach to documentation is … a barrier to access to the archives in the collection” (1995), one could equally suggest the approach to archival management and documentation proposed by much of the museum archives community is a barrier to using those collections as an entry point to objects, artworks, and specimens.

The other key discussion of archives and museums can be found in writing about the actual or potential convergence of GLAM disciplines. In 1995, a year described by Richard Rinehart (2003) as “a watershed” due to the number of public websites developed by museums, W. Boyd Rayward addressed the Second National Conference of the National Preservation Office in Brisbane, one of the first public presentations on convergence (though the term itself had not yet been applied). His talk, “Libraries, Museums and Archives in the Digital Future: The Blurring of Institutional Boundaries,” proposed that organisations would only be able to respond to contemporary challenges if information professionals could “transcend the limitations that their highly developed cultures impose on them so that they can work across the ever-diminishing boundaries that separate them” (Rayward, 1996).

Over the next twenty years, the GLAM sector explored the idea of convergence at conferences and in articles and special editions of journals. Theorists and practitioners wrote of the development of single, unified interfaces to LAM content and resources, hoping to make the boundaries between different collections and collection types blur or disappear altogether (Rayward, 1997; Dempsey, 2000; Pearce et al., 2000; Cathro, 2001; Zorich et al., 2008; Kirchhoff et al., 2008; Higgins, 2012). Such divisions were, in the words of Robert Martin, “ghettoes of our own making” (Martin, 2004).

However, there are numerous issues with the idea of convergence as presented that limit its utility as a model for considering how GLAM collections might work more effectively together. While digitisation may seem to elide differences among objects, records, and publications, different requirements remain for effectively documenting and managing different types of collections, items, and digital surrogates. Some explicitly acknowledge this (Yakel, 2004; Beasley, 2007; Martin, 2007; Trant, 2009; Robinson, 2014), but many do not. Furthermore, the literature on convergence seems to take the value of increasingly numerous discrete information objects as self-evident, with little exploration of how the characteristics of that content support—or indeed fail to support—the actual or emerging needs of disparate audiences. And, when audience needs are discussed in the context of aggregated collections, the requirements outlined are heavily skewed toward dissemination. That the emergence of convergence as a discussion point correlates with the “watershed” year when museums and other institutions rapidly expanded their Web presence is significant. The result: there is little consideration of how underlying systems should evolve to meet changing institutional needs while also supporting more unified online services.

What is more, when looking to remove barriers online, proponents of convergence are rapidly heading toward the idea of “seamless” public-facing collections, a concept that has more recently been the focus of its own critique. As noted by Tim Sherratt in a presentation in February 2015, later published on his blog Discontents: “Seams are not simply obstacles to a smooth user experience, they’re reminders that our online services are themselves constructed” (2015a). Seams delineate structure, context, origin, and organisational provenance. Without them, individual pieces of information and digitised content are either merged and indistinct, or are cut adrift, stripped of some or all their meaning. Additionally, a “seamful” approach (Whitelaw, 2015) does not just require the acknowledgement of boundaries and delineations, but also suggests content that is joined. If the underlying systems used to drive dissemination layers remain separate, and their contents consist primarily of discrete digital objects with associated metadata, the result of online convergence is an increasingly large container, not richer contents—a space that is internally seamless in part because nothing is connected to anything else.

Despite its limitations, the convergence debate prompts interesting discussions. Most significantly, many key figures recognise the contribution different collection types play in the creation of knowledge (Miller, 2000; Martin, 2002; Sassoon, 2007). David Bearman and Jennifer Trant (1998) are particularly clear on this, writing that separating GLAM professions and collections: “has had the peculiar effect of separating artefacts physically from the contexts that gave them meaning and intellectually from documentation of similar objects housed in other, and especially in different kinds of, institutions.” There is an understanding here that bringing together disconnected collections (including archives and artefacts) helps to establish particular meanings and types of knowledge that are otherwise difficult to access. But in focusing on cross-institutional aggregation—another common theme in the literature—there is often insufficient attention given to the fact that divisions also exist within institutions.

Museum archives in practice

Moving from theory to practice, large institutions and projects approach archival material in various ways. Examples drawn from Museum Victoria, Smithsonian, Donald Thomson collection, Spencer & Gillen project, and American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) demonstrate some of the different ways in which artefacts and archives are currently presented.

Museum Victoria’s predecessor, the Science Museum of Victoria, first began using computers to produce its catalogue in 1976, when it worked with Swinburne College of Technology to adapt Swinburne’s library catalogue. When the Science Museum merged with the National Museum of Victoria in 1983 to form the Museum of Victoria (later simply Museum Victoria, MV) they were incorporated into a new phase of technology development that involved partnership with Knowledge Engineering Pty Ltd (later KE Software Pty Ltd). Knowledge Engineering’s TITAN and Texpress led to KE EMu, the Museum’s current collection management software, also used by the University of Melbourne, Australian Museum, Smithsonian, AMNH, and over 400 institutions in total across 13 countries, according to KE’s website (http://www.kesoftware.com/). Throughout the development of these systems, the focus was on documenting and cataloguing collections of objects and specimens, not records; and, perhaps not coincidentally, there were no specialist archival or records management staff at MV prior to or during the initial development of EMu.

When MV employed its first manager of Information and Records in 1998, there were 144 years of documents to consider, and development of the institution’s new collection management system was already underway. The focus for the new manager was understandably on improving information management and systems (McNulty, 2000), gaining intellectual control over the institution’s administrative history and archives, supporting Freedom of Information requests, and developing new or more effective processes to capture new and existing records (Museum Victoria, 2000). As characterised the museum archives movement more broadly, this was viewed as an activity distinct from research, curatorial, and collections management functions. A dedicated records management system was adopted (TRIM), and the Information and Records Management Section began developing MV’s first management strategy for archival collections. By the time KE EMu introduced support for archival description, MV had committed to other systems and ways of working, and EMu’s archives module remains unused within the museum. This separation of systems and collections makes capturing and maintaining connections between artefacts and archives difficult and problematises attempts to bring such content together online. TRIM content is not published on the Web, and there are no links between systems via direct relationships, nor are there common authority records for people, organisations, departments, and other key entities. As a consequence, where there is a need to include documents as part of collections of artefacts, those documents are described individually as objects, placing them outside archival documentation systems and separating them intellectually from their archival context.

The Smithsonian also employs separate systems, but unlike Museum Victoria it publishes archival collection descriptions online. For example, the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History has a page listing its archival collections, many of which have their own finding aid (http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives/collections). Doing so has allowed the Smithsonian to take steps toward the online convergence of their collections, providing a single search for artefacts, archival records, and library-managed publications (http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections). However, there are no documented or explicit links between domains. Selecting an archival item from the search results page takes the user to the Archives, Manuscripts, and Photographs Catalog, which does not search or link through to artefacts or published works. Convergence here is only skin deep.

Federated search, as used by the Smithsonian, makes discovering potentially related archival content easier. But establishing connections, disambiguating names, and finding documents that explicitly refer to artefacts (or vice versa) is left up to the user, with results only as good as the keywords applied and the search terms used. If the British Museum had comparable search functionality and archival finding aids, a user searching for “wilkinson” might find both the Port Sorell hammerstone and the 1901 letter but would not know they are directly related, only that they look to have common provenance. A search for “hammerstone” would likely reveal the stone tool but not the letter, though as has been shown the two are explicitly related, something which was known in 1901 and reestablished by Taylor in 2008. Reliance on federated search would mean a user today would need to rediscover this link for herself, as would a second user next week, and a third working a year from now.

Issues with federated search become more significant as volumes increase. When researching 67 Wilkinson stones in the British Museum and a handful of correspondence, the lack of explicit connections would be manageable, though inconvenient. But for more prominent and prolific collectors, the problem quickly becomes near insurmountable. The National Library of Australia’s Trove (http://trove.nla.gov.au/) is frequently cited as an example of the power of aggregated content, and there is no doubt it has enormous value. Via a single search interface, the user has access to books, articles, newspapers, photographs, collections, websites, and more, which would take many hours to track down via individual institutions. If researching the collections and life of anthropologist and zoologist Donald Thomson, who collected natural history specimens, indigenous artefacts, and more from the 1920s to the 1960s, a Trove search already brings up thousands of results, even without the inclusion of the bulk of the main Thomson collections (which are on long-term loan to Museum Victoria from the University of Melbourne and the Thomson family). Selecting key components and piecing elements together then becomes wholly the responsibility of the user.

However, at the end of the 1980s a microfiche catalogue to the Thomson Collection was published, the result of more than a decade of work by Museum Victoria and the University of Melbourne. Taking as an example a wooden spearthrower collected from the Mission River Area, West Cape York Peninsula in 1933 (DT4123), the microfiche catalogue includes a photograph and a description, along with dimensions, location information, and similar. Beneath this is a list of five other spearthrowers, with basic details about how they differ from the “primary” object. Then at the foot of the entry is a line that reads: “Refs: TFN 196, 255, 256; DT BOT 372; TPH 3054-3056A, 3573, 4422-27” (Ramsay, 1987). These references refer to Thomson fieldnotes (TFN), botanical specimens (DT BOT), and photographs (TPH), with some objects also including reference to publications (TPUB). Unlike the Port Sorell hammerstone, this catalogue includes explicit links that tell the user which items in other collections are related, regardless of collection type.

If such references were presented online as links to catalogue records for fieldnotes, photographs, and so on (which, for significant collections such as Thomson, might also be digitised), the user experience would become quite different. A researcher could locate a single object, and go from here to related field notes. These field notes might in turn lead to other objects and natural history specimens, all connected not only by common provenance and date but also because the documents are explicitly related, even if the records themselves are subsequently stored and managed separately. Federated search across the whole collection would aid users in recreating these connections; however, though the resulting process would likely be faster than that employed in the 1980s, it would still involve repeating an enormous amount of existing scholarship.

The reliance on search driven by keywords, subject terms, full-text indexing, and the use of basic authority records means recent projects often do not undertake the kind of direct cross-references found in the Thomson microfiche catalogue. The beautifully designed Spencer & Gillen site (http://spencerandgillen.net/), which “showcases notebooks, films, audio recordings, illustrations and photographs collected during Spencer and Gillen’s studies in anthropology between 1875 and 1912,” is an example of objects, archival material, and other media brought together—in this case from 26 contributing institutions—to create an immensely valuable virtual collection. Archival items are presented as a type of object, each with its own discrete record more akin to museum documentation than archival description, and users can search and browse material by institution, language group, totem, place, person, and other facets. Taking Spencer and Gillen’s 1901-1902 expedition as an example, a user can explore over 1,000 objects, field notebooks, photographs, and more; but no indication is given as to which field notebook is related to which objects, or whether photographs are illustrative of passages of text or vice versa.

Spencer & Gillen is a clear attempt at interorganisational convergence in practice, utilising digital technologies to span divisions between institutions and collections. Writing about the project, Philip Batty and Jason Gibson (2014) state that the site “will greatly assist in the complex process of managing the many interlocking sets of textual, audio-visual and linguistically diverse data,” and “has been designed in order to represent the overlapping relationships.” However, when viewing one of their key examples of photographs, expedition diaries and other material concerned with an Arrente “revenge party,” or “Atninga,” relationships between content are not clear. Some (though not all) of the photographs, documents, and journals related to the event are tagged with the Arrente language group, but the items are not connected to each other in any way. These are presented online as discrete digital records comprising images and metadata that have common attributes to help users bring them together. They exist in a shared space; but the sorts of explicit connections made in the text of Batty and Gibson’s article have not yet been carried across to the data structures used on the site itself.

One institutional contributor to Spencer & Gillen, the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York (http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/), does make such connections explicit and may be the closest available example to a digital version of the Thomson approach, using text, references, and digitised records to contextualise artefacts. For example, a horn collected on the Lang-Chapin Congo Expedition, now held in the African Ethnographic Collection (Catalog No: 90.1/ 1805), includes fielded metadata and keywords, related photographs, and a transcription of the expedition field notes from when the item was collected with a link to a digital copy of the notes themselves. The entry also includes the object’s exhibition history, complete with the label text used in each exhibition; a publication history; and links to the relevant page of the handwritten catalogue entry for the item (which has been digitised), the archival finding aid for The Records of the Lang-Chapin Congo Expedition, 1909-1915, and an entry about the expedition. Missing is the ability to start at a catalogue page and navigate to all the related objects, or from the expedition description to all the acquisitions that resulted, or from one object to other objects mentioned in the same collection. AMNH provides rich documentary context, but users must start with the object and, once there, can only take a single step into other types of collections before returning.

3. The need to go further

Users increasingly benefit from the convenience of federated search and aggregated collections. But if explicit networks of connections between artefacts and archives (and other types of collections) were captured, managed, and communicated, there would be substantial additional benefit for institutions, researchers, and the community.

As Tim Sherratt (2015b) noted in a recent presentation to the Linked Open Data community, historians create networks of connections between entities all the time as part of their work. The same is true of curators, exhibition designers, collection managers, and others who work with collections. But much of this knowledge at present exists outside collection management systems and archival finding aids. Instead, it is in people’s heads and in research notes, exhibition catalogues, journal articles, narrative histories, and other forms. The danger here is that when staff leave a museum, much of this implicit knowledge—not just about artefacts, but about their context and the connections between them—also leaves. Similarly, when external researchers work with collections, like Rebe Taylor working with the Wilkinson collection, or Philip Jones conducting his extensive research for Ochre and Rust (2007), the functionality required in collection management systems to capture the connections they uncover remains rudimentary at best.

Therefore, the community viewing collections online cannot see the networks of relationships that exist within collections, and between artefacts and rich contextual documentation in archives. Nor can they see connections that are implicit in the working knowledge of experts, and that are often made explicit in narrative text and other research outputs; yet this is the information many require to more fully appreciate, understand, and interpret what they are seeing.

Toward networked collection knowledge

The letter from Wilkinson is simultaneously part of the network of knowledge objects that surround the Port Sorell hammerstone and part of a network of archival documents and meanings within the correspondence collection. What is apparent from the theory and practice presented above is that, while museums have made progress in how they view and deal with artefacts and archives, there is little indication institutions are capable of (or willing to) manage single records as part of multiple descriptive systems simultaneously.

Underneath relatively thin online layers of federation and aggregation, museums continue to work digitally in ways that reflect some of the limitations of earlier collections management practice. Archival items are left in the archives (the British Museum), managed in different systems depending on the type of record (Museum Victoria), documented as discrete museum objects (Spencer & Gillen), or attached as cross-references or virtual appendices to objects (Thomson; AMNH) rather than being allowed to coexist as fully documented components of archival and museum practice simultaneously. Where the two are brought together, as with the Smithsonian and their converged search result sets, the effect is comparable to interleaved catalogues for separate collections, with all the work required to uncover relationships between them left up to the user.

Joanna Sassoon (2007) has written of collections: “The constituent parts of a cultural and physical landscape are part of a broader system. The broader system is a network of related entities interacting together with their non-living (physical, geographical and administrative) environment.” Though many examples in this paper have highlighted item-level relationships, in part due to the item-level focus found in most digital collections, effectively building such networks also requires a move beyond authority lists and controlled attributes toward shared descriptive entries for key people, organisations, events, expeditions, locations, collections, and other entities, linked by defined relationships. This type of practice is starting to emerge at different scales in the archival community (McCarthy & Evans, 2008; McCarthy et al., 2012; Lynch, 2014; Pitti et al., 2014), and interestingly the AMNH has recently started to explore the use of the archival ISAAR(CPF) standard for authority records, which may provide an early model for how this approach might be applied in museums (Lee, 2014a, 2014b). Over the same period, theorists have looked at how museums make and shape knowledge, drawing on post-structuralism, actor network theory, and other conceptual frameworks to explore the open, complex, interrelational, and entangled networks that make up the world in all its complexity (Hooper-Greenhill 1992; Byrne et al., 2011; Cordella, 2010; Hodder, 2012).

Some museum systems partially support moving into such a space, even if their full potential has not been realised. Many do not. Similarly, current processes and practices vary considerably within and across institutions and disciplines. Moving from theory to practice will therefore be a significant task. It will require the study of museum systems, collection management and documentation strategies, and archival and museum standards; the creation of enhanced dissemination layers that work with, represent, and help capture networked collection knowledge; the examination of the needs of collection users, including curators, educators, researchers, communities, and the general public; and the development of a conceptual model to ensure the whole does not become an unmanageable tangle of data. But it is a project worth undertaking as we look to move toward true networked collection knowledge incorporating artefacts, archives, and their contexts.

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Cite as:
. "Artefacts and archives: Considering cross-collection knowledge networks in museums." MWA2015: Museums and the Web Asia 2015. Published August 15, 2015. Consulted .
https://mwa2015.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/artefacts-and-archives-considering-cross-collection-knowledge-networks-in-museums/