Countryside21: digital curation, participation, enterprise

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The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) has benefitted greatly from new technologies, and a series of digitisation projects has led to the creation of more than 50,000 'virtual surrogates' (digital copies) of items within the collections. These include scans of old photographs and paper records, images of artefacts and documents, and copies of films and sound recordings.

Over the years, these digital resources have accumulated in an unstructured way. Countryside21 will locate them within a single system, enabling the Museum to better manage its digital content, and giving users better access to it by empowering them to search and identify content.

To do this, Countryside21 will integrate the MERL catalogue (Adlib) with the University of Reading's existing 'digital asset management' system (AssetBank). The project will also improve the range and quality of keywords used to search across the two systems. Old classificatory terms and keywords will be reworked, and new, more emotive ways to describe content will be introduced.

P DX289 PH1_261aCountryside21 will ensure that users, both inside and outside the Museum, have the greatest possible chance of identifying what they are looking for, whether for publication, research, enjoyment, or learning. Furthermore, the project will develop the existing image bank service, and provide potential for MERL to host and manage access to the digital assets of external partners.

Countryside21 is funded by Arts Council England's (ACE) Designation development fund. The Fund supports projects which ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of Designated collections and maximise their public value. Countryside21 will run until October 2013.

To keep up to date with progress on the project, visit the MERL Projects blog.

Designated as an Outstanding Collection








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