Notes from meeting with the DIA (August 12, 2009)

DIA Feedback Synopsis

Present: FE: Jess, James, Leah, Vicki, DIA: Jenifer, David and Amy

The teleconference proved to be very informative as it gave us perspective on the size of the DIA's physical collection (90 galleries to 5,000 objects). Their concerns center around the logistics of how the museum's collections information system is stored and the feasibility of how it could be aggregated into a FE system.

They are currently using TMS, which aggregates data into File Maker Pro. They also use a graphic design system that pulls press releases and other didactic material for distribution. They talked about the current workflow for entering data into the collections system. As a group we decided that more work needs to take place to understand the role of the gallery staff and the use of the larger system.

Overall the museum expressed interest in designing a "sandbox" that would allow the use of technology as a way to enhance /extend the physical exhibition space into a virtual space presence and provide way finding tools (like a printable map) to visitors.

Together we sculpted areas of concern:


  • Is it possible given the enormity of the collection, space, rigorous schedule, etc?


  • The system would have to be easy to use. 
  • Staff move from position to position, so training would have to be at a minimum to ensure staff adopt the new system into their workflow.


  • Semantic Technologies,
  • Thematic Units


  • Review DIA Data models
  • Review the viability of Tagging and additional content

Detailed Notes (Transcript in Coles notes)

*This text denotes information that needs clarifying.

DIA CONCERN: Scalability

  • 5000 objects that move around on a very vigorous schedule
  • 90 galleries
  • 3 floors
  • They have a Filemaker database
  • Don't know how it would be possible to accomplish many of these scenarios
  • Would need an interface, basic structure, that everyone on staff could use
  • Pulling images
  • Customizing tours
  • This content needs to change on a daily basis and it's almost impossible to do this
  • Information is continually updating itself

Jess: Collin to visit DIA to work on the backend linkages

DIA databases:

  • There are 3 independent databases that provide information to a map?
    1- TMS?
    2- Filemaker Pro Database - internal information on how we interpret the info
  • OpenSource stuff may substitute this?
  • Really frustrating to work with
    3- Graphic design files are managed by...


  • How does the tagging work? In the Backend? Does someone have to go through this and re-tag every single object?

Jess: Use what's already there

  • How did you come up with the "Sports Day " and "Take a hike" brochures?


  • There are only 8 objects in those
  • Took from our head and just thought about what people might want to see from east to west side of the museum
  • Civil Rights tour from the teachers - they go and tag what's related
  • Walk through the museum and pull objects that seem good, draft a tour, put it forth to the curators and then we go through the design process. Doesn't go anywhere for at least a year.
  • This is also fostered by people's staff knowledge of the collection
  • The educators have a really good understanding of the broader museum. Once you start to specialize, people aren't aware of the other parts of the museum.


  • Common for interpretation to be linked to an object and that you use that same object in the same context.
  • That's not the case with the DIA, the interpretation changes depending on its context of use. Objects are used in different contexts and are then interpreted in different ways.

2 things happen with curating: NEED TO CLARIFY THIS
1 - Collect things based on a theme and also, for the family fitting room, where things are located in the museum.
2- Interview happens, then the expert creates and path based on the information

DIA: Proposing Tours from Docents POV

  • 90 galleries are all based upon different themes
  • Docent draws knowledge based on those themes?
  • "Are you interested in X? Then you should see this exhibit"
  • Add visual details based on what they may find interesting. "... and then here are some other related-interesting objects." (to visitor)
  • It's pretty loose, which makes it really personal.

More David thoughts:

  • Have themed tours like a romantic tour
  • Based on feelings and ability to access the collections based on a map.
  • Meld both the technology/human and the human/human interactions to help the experience of the visitor.
  • Just so the staff member isn't sifting through the database.
  • People have a hard time finding things or try to knowing what's on display at the museum
  • DIA would like to see a better 'sandbox' where they can put all their toys and start using them in different ways, without walls. Play with objects in unusual combinations.
  • Collaboration tool for staff members and promote that to the museum community at large
  • Collect, sort, tag, organize... this is what we're looking at right now
  • Customized tours is a great idea

James: What do you want to have in the sandbox?

  • Objects and images of the objects
  • Basic information of each object
  • Input? Fields for research data
  • Ability to sort and resort, group and regroup in a very nimble way
  • "What do we know about this object, ok let's put it over here?"
  • Stick it on a whiteboard, put relevant information around it, iterate and change it as we need to
  • Take snap shots of it.
  • Play with it.

DIA: bridging to the community

  • Bring in other things that go beyond the museum like an event that's going on in the community or a visitor's perspective, feedback. Interpretive data and information?
    (LM: iTunes does this very well)
  • Use Powerpoint to convey ideas? But this still sticks to a narrative and may constrain the way in which the information can be sorted and re-sorted.

Exhibit Design Stages:

  • Concept Foundation, design development... and two other stages.
  • Need to think about other interpretive experiences
  • We have Project rooms with whiteboards, right now. This is not conducive to keeping information because other people come in and use it and we wind up losing things (notes, ideas, brainstorms)
  • This is what they would hope for the Sandbox

Side Notes:

The Museum System (TMS)

What is TMS?

TMS is the cultural sector's leading collection management system. Developed in partnership with museum professionals, TMS streamlines the way you capture, manage and access your collection information. Daily activities such as cataloguing, media tracking, and coordinating exhibitions, have never been easier.
Collection information is divided into ten integrated modules, or record types: Objects, Constituents, Media, Exhibitions, Loans, Shipping, Bibliography, Events, Sites and Insurance. Since the modules are interlinked, information is entered once, remaining consistent and accessible.
TMS is open architecture, so your collection data can be easily and seamlessly integrated with other management systems
through either Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server.
Access to the information you need, the way you need it

We made TMS highly configurable, because no two collections are alike. The application comes with multiple search and viewing options, robust reporting features, and a customizable thesaurus.

TMS Light

If your organization does not support extensive exhibition and loan programs, TMS light may be your solution. TMS light comes with three modules: Objects, Constituents and Media.