UKOLN Collection Description Focus

News Bulletin - September/October 2002

Pete Johnston and Bridget Robinson -

CD Focus website -

CD Focus discussion list -

Welcome to the September/October edition of the CD Focus news bulletin. We are pleased to include a contribution from Nick Poole and Susi Woodhouse of Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. The Focus is now well into the new work programme which will run until the end of July 2003.


The fourth regional workshop will be held on Friday 8th November at the University of Newcastle, Castle Leazes Halls of Residence. The workshop will explore the relationship between collection-level description and collection management, with specific reference to the needs of the professional information manager and the wider needs of the Distributed National Collection. The draft programme and booking form are available at: -
The fifth regional workshop will be held on 30th January 2003 at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge.

The Focus are also planning a "Showcase" event at the British Library Conference centre on 25th March 2003 and following on from this, three training workshops. Exact dates and venues for the training workshops are still to be decided.


The CD Focus has been involved in a number of events over the last few months as outlined in the last news bulletin.

Pete Johnston contributed a presentation to a session on collection-level description at the OCLC/SCURL conference, "New Directions in Metadata", in Edinburgh in August. The conference covered a range of metadata-related topics, and the interest in collection-level description was highlighted by a session dedicated to the subject. That session also included presentations from Dennis Nicholson & Gordon Dunsire on the experience of collection-level description in the RSLP-funded SCONE project, and from Marie Pierre Détraz on the CURL experience of using the OCLC iCAS collection assessment tools. An account of the conference is available in the recent edition of Ariadne:

The CD Focus ran a pre-conference workshop for the mda conference "Common Threads", which was held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in September. Pete Johnston introduced the concept of collection-level description, described some standard CLD schemas and looked at some practical examples of CLD in museums. A presentation were given by the Crossroads Project, which is creating a database of collection-level descriptions, and SWMLAC (South West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) and WMRMC (West Midlands Regional Museum Council) - both of which have done substantial work on collection mapping. The day finished with an overview from Nick Poole of Resource. Bridget Robinson gave a paper on the last day of the conference entitled: "Thinking collectively: disclosure of resources through collection-level description."

Pete is giving a joint presentation with Rachel Perkins (Natural History Museum): "Collections Revealed: The Role and Practical Application of Collection Description" at the CIMI Forum Meeting: 31st October, The National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. See the CIMI Web site for details and a booking form:

All the presentations are available at:

Resource and Collections-Level Description

Nick Poole, ICT Adviser and Susi Woodhouse, Senior Network Adviser, Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries

In a world, in which museums, archives and libraries are increasingly finding themselves working side-by-side on collaborative projects, initiatives and programmes, ICT and Collections are emerging as common issues with the potential to unify the sector. Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries has a key enabling role to play, and the Libraries and Information Society Team is working with colleagues to develop strategies for the use of ICT, collections management and stewardship. Part of this work concerns building capacity in museums, archives and libraries to enable the sector to develop sustainable services supported by skilled staff which make the most of the content they have to offer. Much of this is well underway, with the People's Network project on target and within budget to wire up 98% of UK public libraries with broadband Internet connections by the end of this year. The ICT training programme for public library staff is two-thirds complete and the New Opportunities Fund Digitisation of Learning Materials programme will begin delivering content early in 2003. Resource is working to extend this model to archives and to Registered museums in support of the Government's stated commitment to achieve universal access to ICT by 2005.

The end result of all of this activity will be a digital environment in which museums, archives and libraries are able to play an effective and sustainable role in the Online Information Environment. Central to realising this ambition is a commitment to developing and promoting standards - whether these are technical, descriptive or terminological. It is for this reason that Resource is pleased to have been able to support the Collections Description Focus at UKOLN and to enable them to continue their excellent work.

Resource's relationship with collection-level descriptions began in 1997 with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport report "Treasures in Trust". This report identified a need to recognise the 'richness and diversity of UK museum collections'. As a result of this directive, the Cornucopia database of museum collections was developed by Resource, and full descriptions for the South West and West Midlands are now searchable online at We are currently in the process of completing records for Yorkshire and the Northwest, and these will be online by the end of the year.

The past few years have seen increasing activity in the collection-level descriptions arena, and Resource has worked with UKOLN in promoting the CLD Schema that was developed as part of the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP). Work has included support for pathfinder projects such as Crossroads, Cecilia and Find It In London, which are highlighting key issues on the way towards a truly cross-sectoral collections-based online service.

We are now exploring ways in which we can capitalise on this activity to create collection descriptions for the whole of our sector. To achieve this, we are working closely with the archive community, the Historic Manuscripts Commission, Access to Archives and others, as well as conducting a pilot project to include special library collections in the existing Cornucopia database. There are obviously challenges along the way, including establishing descriptive norms for collections from many different types of institution, and creating systems that will make use of these. We are confident that, working with UKOLN, we will be able to make full use of the potential that collection-level descriptions have to offer.

November news bulletin

All contributions for the next bulletin should be sent to by Monday 11th November. This issue will contain a report on the Newcastle workshop.