MOAC California museums working with libraries and archives to increase and enhance access to cultural collections
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MOAC REPORT 2003: Table of Contents
  Introduction, Robin Chandler
  Project Manager's Report, Richard Rinehart
  Standards and Best Practices, Guenter Waibel
  Partner Reports
    Bancroft Library, James Eason
    Grunwald Center for Graphic Arts, Layna White
    Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Josh Meehan
    UCR/California Museum of Photography, Steve Thomas

   MOAC
MOAC Project Assessment: Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, UCLA
Layna White

Contributing collection guides to the Museums and the Online Archive of California (MOAC) is one response by partners to the increased dependence on Web-based content. Each partner is further engaged in projects or programs to distribute digital content widely. MOAC complements a local project of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts to provide layered access to collection information for researchers, students, educators, and others-a project funded by the Getty Grant Program. Together, the two projects will improve access to descriptions and images from the Center's collection of 40,000 European, American, and Japanese works on paper, including prints, drawings, photographs, and artists' books dating from the Renaissance to the present. For MOAC, the Center will contribute descriptions (many with images) of works by Old Masters, 19th-century caricaturists, Japanese ukiyo-e artists, and modern and contemporary artists. Much of MOAC's work is supported by the University of California and funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Center's participation in MOAC would have been much narrower without this support.

Presence in the Virtual Collections component of the Online Archive of California (OAC) gives the Center one swift way to distribute selected content prior to launching its local information access project. The MOAC project is distinct and interesting because descriptions and images from diverse collections are centralized in the database managed by the OAC. The idea of centralizing content is attractive in that information seekers might find access to such a database efficient, useful, or unexpected. Centralization of partner content begins by following agreed upon specifications for descriptions and images. It should be noted that the Electronic Text Unit of UC Berkeley has offered MOAC partners exceptional technical support and advice.

MOAC is a forum for sharing (often, debating) information about community-based standards, best practices, and public access. As described elsewhere, the MOAC project tested the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) as a data structure standard for representing museum objects and collections in the OAC. (The project also implemented the Making of America 2 standard, or MOA2, and is prepared to implement the Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard.) Like many MOAC partners, the Center means to balance the mission-critical needs of its professional staff (e.g., collections and exhibitions management) with the research and curricula-complementing needs of our audiences (e.g., interpretation and scholarship) therefore, no single project (or single project standard) controls exclusively the Center's plans for information access.

While the MOAC partnership enables leveraging of some resources for sustained involvement-such as funding, technology expertise, and project tools-reaching the Center's goals for MOAC can be described as somewhere between easy and difficult. Partners have come together at several points to collaborate (for example, to discuss and ratify specifications) however, most project-related activities mean working away from fellow partners. MOAC, in fact, tested a centralized and decentralized approach to content production, contribution, storage, and distribution.

Developing and maintaining workflow routines and time management issues required considerable attention by the Center's staff. The Center plans collection guides for MOAC as web-based publications. These publications are peculiar in that they are searchable and centralized in the OAC with collection guides and finding aids from other collecting bodies. Production activities-from selecting appropriate content, preparing descriptions, and applying controlled vocabulary, to getting data into the agreed upon formats-require time, local resources, cooperation, and description and technical know-how, as well as an on-site project manager or liaison. The Center's MOAC project team consists of the collections information manager (MOAC project manager), three curatorial staff, and the director.

The Center is assisted in production by the digital assets management tool (DAMD) developed by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. DAMD can help partners manage project workflow, digital assets, and the process of converting museum data to the targeted EAD and MOA2 formats. The Center uses DAMD principally to generate markup of object and collection descriptions in EAD. This project-related tool has lessened some of the work for the Center to produce new EAD collection guides. In its first iterations, however, the tool was unforgiving and required a strict methodology when ingesting data-not necessarily a bad thing. Partners use DAMD understanding the tool is offered without formal client support. Yet, help is often extended, thanks to the willingness and generosity of its developers and other partners.

The MOAC leadership and project tools facilitate a certain level of self-management for partners. With DAMD on local machines, for example, partners decide how best to represent their objects and collections, within an acceptable range of MOAC specifications. Partners maintain local practices-ensuring descriptions are not manipulated for this one project. While partners retain much control over content expression, they give up some say in the "look" of the product displayed to users, as non-customizable interfaces have been developed for the project.

From the Center's point of view, the first years of MOAC have been an intense period of standardization, production, and integration. In the coming months, partners will examine how Web audiences use MOAC content (or imagine using MOAC content) in learning, teaching, and scholarship. The examination will help content providers, like the Center, determine the degrees of access desired and usefulness of our descriptions and images for audiences.