The Powerhouse Museum's online collection database, known internally as OPAC2.0, first went live to the public in June 2006. Since then it has been regularly updated with new features and additions in response to user feedback and evaluation. The collection database employs a variety of different methods and technologies to encourage browsing and chance discovery within the Museum's diverse collection.
Whilst the collection database holds a large number of objects from the Museum's collection it does not hold everything. We estimate that roughly 70% of the Museum's active and electronically documented collection is available for searching. More objects and images are being added on a monthly basis.
Most of our collection has been acquired before the advent of computers and as such a large portion of Museum knowledge and documentation is held in paper and non-digital formats. The level of documentation varies depending on when the objects were collected, what was known about them at the time, the research that has been undertaken since, and whether this research has been digitised. You will notice that more recent acquistions are more likely to have extensive documentation available online, and often, better quality, colour, zoomable images.
Research and documentation, both textual and photographic, of the Museum's collection is a continuous process and so from time to time the information for an object may be out of date or simply reflect the knowledge available at the time of writing. One of the most exciting things to come out of our collection database has been the enormous amount of input from users ranging from scholars and researchers to amateur collectors. If you think you can tell us more about an object or think that we have got something wrong, then contact us via the contact page. Make sure you include the object number or URL so we know precisely which one you are writing to us about.
At the present time we are unable to offer downloadable images of everything in our collection however you can request copies subject to applicable Copyright laws through our Photo Library. Make sure you include the object number or URL so we know precisely which one you are writing to us about.
An early paper, "Tagging & Searching: Serendipity and Museum Collection Databases" wrtten by Sebastian Chan on the operation of the site was presented at Museums and the Web 2007 in San Francisco. It is published and available for reading online. The site continues to be expanded and developed. New developments and ongoing research is presented, primarily for museum and technical audiences, on the Web Services blog, Open House. If you wish to know more or have specific questions then please take a look at Open House first and if your question is still unanswered then submit your question to the Web Services Unit via the Contact Us form.