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Web-based database system opens up Baltic museum collections

More and more museums are providing online access to their collections, making it possible to visit great cultural and historic treasures from the comfort of your home or office.

The key to simple use is well-structured information, data access and site architecture. The EUREKA E! 2918 ONLINE CATALOGUE project has developed a cost-effective and easily configurable database system, simplifying access to almost any type of museum collection.

This web-based approach was developed to widen and deepen cooperation between museums in the Baltic States by improving functionality and ease-of-use, enhancing research, education and training. The system is already providing Internet access to museum collections in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for European and world citizens. The resulting open-architecture system will be marketed worldwide.

Bringing together similar approaches

While the Baltic State museums shared similar approaches to collection organisation from their shared heritage under Soviet control, absence of local standards for museum documentation made it difficult to build a common database system. Online access was seen as essential to provide innovative services for museum specialists, scientists, students and tourists alike.

ONLINE CATALOGUE started in 2003 as a joint initiative between the Latvian state museum organisation and IT systems developer SIA IT Consulting, which had extensive experience in the museum sector. Latvian museums had little collection management software at the time, and lacked financial resources to acquire it. For many museums, a centralised system seemed cheaper as expenses for development and maintenance could be shared. In addition, the system could provide innovative services as all the collections would be in one common database.

The universal nature of the Museum Collections Management system provides total freedom in defining fields in the database,” explains Andris Kovalauks of project partner IT Consulting, which managed the project on behalf of the project leader, the State Authority on Museums of Latvia in Riga.

The main intention was to improve functionality, usability and accessibility to museum collection information through Internet access. Additional goals included stimulating creativity and strengthening the museum research workers’ digital skills and deepening relationships between museums in the three Baltic States.

Museum organisations in neighbouring Lithuania and Estonia were attracted by this approach and the result was establishing the ONLINE CATALOGUE project. “EUREKA helped all partners to find finance in their own countries – funding that would not have been available in any other way,” adds Kovalausks.

More information:

State Authority On Museums Of Latvia
Kalku, 11 A
Tel.: +371 7 503 870
Fax.: +371 7 228 083

Sally Horspool | alfa
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