Within the Powerhouse Museum we are very excited about the idea of the Museum Metadata Exchange using the Powerhouse Object Name Thesaurus as a vocabulary control for collection descriptions. The Museum Metadata Exchange is providing us with a great opportunity to make our thesaurus more widely available as well as developing the thesaurus even more, with the possibility of input from other institutions.
We have been using our object name thesaurus as a structured vocabulary control within our collection information system, since our first system back in 1993. The Thesaurus was published in 1995 as a hard copy and has been available on the Powerhouse Museum’s website for about a year now.
The purpose of the Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus is to provide object name terms within an Australian context, for indexing museum collections. The thesaurus also provides a controlled vocabulary that facilitates easier searching of collection databases for specific object types.
There are currently about 8,600 terms in the thesaurus that name or categorise object types. The level of specificity for object names varies amongst different collection areas. Some areas have more terms than others. This is because the thesaurus has developed as Powerhouse staff have documented objects within the collection database. Some areas such as social history and decorative arts are much better represented than other areas.
Some areas, such as fine arts and natural history, have only minimal object name terms, as the Powerhouse does not actively collect in these areas. There is a great opportunity to get input from other institutions with varied collections to develop the thesaurus further.
The thesaurus can be used to make a semantic link from individual objects to collections included in the Museum Metadata Exchange. It will be interesting to see how the thesaurus develops.