Project Review and Management
The project of the Conservation and Art Materials Dictionary (CAMD) has been developed and managed at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston. The overall scope, direction and content have been supervised and reviewed by:
- Arthur Beale, Chair of Conservation and Collections Management Department, MFA
- Richard Newman, Head of Scientific Research, MFA
Additionally, six contributor/reviewer members of the project team were. selected for their extensive experience and breadth of knowledge in their respective fields. They are:
- Gordon Hanlon, Head of Furniture and Frame Conservation, MFA
- Pamela Hatchfield, Head of Objects Conservation, MFA
- Teri Hensick, Conservator of Paintings, Straus Conservation Center, Harvard Art
- Meredith Montague, Head of Textile Conservation, MFA
- Ivan Myjer , Conservator , Building and Monument Conservation
- Roy Perkinson, Head of Paper Conservation, MFA
All the reviewers collected and submitted information for inclusion in the database. This will continue as an ongoing process of the Conservation Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The database will grow and be updated as additional resources are, located.
A draft of the digitized database and selected hard copy entries were sent to six project team reviewers in September 1999. They reviewed the format and content of the database as well as examined selected entries. Their recommended revisions to entries have been made directly to the database. The overall written reviews are attached to this final report.
The reviews provided many good suggestions that have been changed, such as:
- The page format has been modified such that the database will not override the Windows operating function and will permit the user to switch back and forth between the dictionary and other programs on the computer.The page format has been modified such that the database will not override the Windows operating function and will permit the user to switch back and forth between the dictionary and other programs on the computer.
- The size of the field boxes has been decreased to allow all the text to be seen at one time. Thus it will not be necessary to scroll back and forth to see the complete text.
- New reference sources have been included to fill in some incomplete areas of information.
In addition, there were three dominant recommendations from the reviewers that have been implemented. These are:
- It is important for a wider audience of experienced conservators to review and edit
the entries. A two step process was developed to provide for this expanded review process. The first step was to place a prototype version of CAMD on the Intranet system at the MFA. This step allows more than 200 specialists (conservators, curators, collection care specialists, registrars, students, etc.) to use and review the information. The second step of the expanded review process will occur in July 2000, when CAMD will be placed on the Internet with controlled (password) access for a six-month period. The password will be disseminated to volunteers in the conservation and preservation community. This step allows a diverse, but experienced audience to act as reviewers and supply additions and revisions. At the end of this time, the dictionary will have unlimited access on the Internet. It will, even at this point, retain a submission page for comments, revisions and updates. Additionally an authority field has been incorporated in the nonviewable portion of each record to track the reviewers’ names, comments and changes for each material.
- The citations for further information is a key field and it is very important to have this field as complete as possible. Additions have been and will continue to be made to this field.
- The searching mechanisms for the data need to be revised to include more options. As part of the development of CAMD on the Intranet at MFA, the database has been converted from a Filemaker Pro system to a Microsoft Access system. This has included a major structural change in the viewing and searching of the data. The search page has been revised to include all viewable fields. Additionally a macro has been written to automatically link the synonym field to the material name field. Additionally, since the computer searches will find only exact matches for a given request, alternate spellings and misspellings of materials are being added to the synonym field (i.e., Bioplastic for the trade name of BioPlastic).
The reviewers have mentioned numerous other good recommendations. Each of the recommendations were considered and incorporated into the structure of the database.
The CAMD has the potential to be a major source of information for the conservation community as well as for other related fields, such as art, art history, architecture, design, education and archaeology. However, for the database to be useful it must be disseminated. There are several options for the dissemination of the database. One potential route is for the publication of the database in a dictionary format. One publisher, Butterworth-Heinemann, was initially approached with the concept of the database and has been kept apprised of its development. They are interested in considering its publication and this possibility will be further explored. The second option for dissemination is to release the dictionary in a CD-ROM version. This option is currently on hold since the conversion to Microsoft Access format no longer allows runtime version of the software to be made.
The final option for the dissemination of the dictionary is publication on the Internet. The World Wide Web is becoming ever important as an alternative publication source since it provides an immediate, diverse and international audience. The database format of the information can be readily searched and browsed to obtain full impact of its usefulness. One strength of Internet distribution is that the data can be updated and revised with additional information and materials. This final option was selected and is being implemented.
Currently the CAMD is an ongoing project of the Department of Conservation and Collections Management at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston. Michele Derrick has been hired as a consultant to continue to work on the dictionary. As part of the MFA Conservation Department, a prototype of CAMD has been placed on the MFA Intranet (internal) website. The MFA Intranet site provides an avenue for use and review of the database by specialists at the Museum. This includes conservators (seven departments), collection care specialists, registrars, archaeologists, art historians and curators (10 departments).
In July 2000, the database will be placed on the MFA Internet website. For the initial six- month period, its access will be controlled by a password. The password will be distributed to volunteers in the conservation and preservation community that agree to act as reviewers. This final review process will provide the wide scope of expertise that is required to cover the complex and diverse information in the dictionary. Both the Intranet and Internet versions of the database will provide an easy method for submitting changes, additions and queries, so that recommendations can be readily incorporated.
In order to announce and inform the conservation field of the Conservation and Art Materials Database, a presentation and demonstration of the database will be made at the annual MC meeting in June 2000 in Philadelphia.