Raising Awareness

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Collection Description for Resource Discovery

About This Document

This briefing document provides an introduction to Collection Description as a resource discovery tool.

Why Do We Need It?

Archives, libraries and museums each have their own approach to resource discovery. Traditionally libraries used catalogues to describe individual items, archives used finding aids which set items as an integral part of a collection, while museums arranged items in groupings for the visiting public but did not provide publicly accessible catalogues.

Now all three domains have digitised resources and users expect information on collections to be available. At collection level, users might be looking for:

  • Images, sound recordings and/or text material on the use of a plant in herbal medicine - I'm creating a herb garden.
  • Information about my family - I'm tracing my family history.
  • Images relating to slavery in Bristol - for my history coursework.

Since 1991, a number of resources have been developed to help resource discovery at collection level. Some of these are described below.

Culture 24

Partly funded by the government this Web site promotes museums, galleries and heritage sites across the UK - see <>.

Event listings, collection information and venue details are held in a live database, that UK museums, galleries, libraries and museums can add to using passworded access.
Children's zone that brings together interactive materials from collections across the UK.


MICHAEL stands for "Multi-Lingual Inventory of Cultural Heritage in Europe". The MICHAEL Web site is available at <>.

The MICHAEL partners are France, Italy, UK. Phase 2: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
UK entries
Digital collections held by cultural heritage institutions. This service complements Cornucopia (described below) which holds details of physical collections.

Collection Description Databases

Some examples of collection description databases - each has a different focus:

Initially this covered only physical museum collections in England; descriptions for library collections were added as part of the Inspire project. See <>
The focus is on collections relating to music - everything from CDs to music scores and historic instruments to composers manuscripts. See <">
The Scottish Collections Network - materials held in Scotland and collections about Scottish issues held elsewhere. See <>
Planning Architecture Design Database Ireland covers all aspects of the built environment and environmental planning in Ireland. See <>
Tap Into Bath
Cultural heritage and academic collections held in archives, museums, art galleries and libraries in the city of Bath. The database and software are available for free re-use. See <>
Southern Cross Resource Finder
Describes UK-based collections that hold resources useful for the study of Australia and/or New Zealand. Uses the Tap into Bath database and software. See <>
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