Hey Ethan,

I worked for a number of museums before moving into Library work.  I've
built web apps on top of museum collections before.

You might want to get on the Museum Computer Network email list: 

There are a lot of folks in the museum community who are working with
FOSS for various aspects of their operations.  A museum collection
management system is not unlike an ILS in many ways — it's not just a
catalog, but manages the business operations of the museum related to
their collections:  aquisition, insurance, conservation records,
location tracking, exhibition and publication histories, shipping, etc. 
The museum vendor market is very similar to the library ILS market —
it's opening up to open source development, but isn't as far along in
terms of multiple options.  A LOT of smaller museums develop their own
databases on top of FileMaker, Access, MS-SQL, etc, because vendor
systems can be much more expensive that what you quote for PastPerfect. 

As to standards, there are some open data structure standards making
their through the museum community.  The community got into  Dublin Core
very early.  Now there's the Categories for the Description of Works of
Art (CDWA), the CIDOC Categories,VRA Core, etc.  There are a lot of
guidelines and vocabularies.  Check out  

CHIN maintains resources about standards at .


Leslie Johnston
Digital Media Project Coordinator
Office of Strategic Initiatives
Library of Congress
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>>> Ethan Gruber <[log in to unmask]> 4/14/2009 3:12 PM >>>
Hi all,

I've been a software developer in a research library for several years,
I have worked with objects typically viewed as museum collections to a
degree (particularly ancient coins and eighteenth century European
music).  Since I'm from a library and am familiar with library
standards as far as metadata practices and software applications go, I
to apply library standards toward the museum collections I have been
contact with--which involves Encoded Archival Description for
opensource applications like tomcat, cocoon, and lucene/solr.  My
of museum practices is fairly limited, but I have noticed that many
have tended to adopt proprietary databases to describe their
collections.  I
feel museums tend to lag behind their library counterparts with respect
the adoption of opensource frameworks and open standards, but if you
about it, museums are scarcely different than many archives/special
collections libraries in content and organization.  I'm thinking of
PastPerfect in particular.  It's quite common in the museum world and
almost $1000 per license.

I'm wondering if anyone else on code4lib actually works for a museum or
first-hand experience in providing access to museum collections and
noticed the same general differences between libraries and museums that

Ethan Gruber
University of Virginia Library