Since our blog entry on building the database, we have held a series of user trials of the Mapping Museums database and the Web Application through which the database is accessed. These trials have given us much useful feedback for improving the system as well as a positive endorsement of the overall development approach. For example, museums experts told us that the system is “useful to anyone wanting to understand the museum sector as this is the closest we’ve ever been to getting a full picture of it”, “intuitive to use”, “the Museum equivalent of YouTube”.
Following the user trials, we have made some improvements and extensions to the user interface, have incorporated data relating to some 50 additional museums, and have added three new attributes for all of the 4000+ museums in our database. The new attributes relate to the location of each museum and are Geodemographic Group and Geodemographic Subgroup and Deprivation indices (English indices of deprivation 2015, Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, and Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2017).
Usage of the database and Web Application by the project’s researchers has already led to insights about periods and regions that show high numbers of museum openings or closings, changes in museums’ accreditation and governance status over the past 60 years, and popular subject areas. There will be two more years of detailed research, both qualitative and quantitative, building on this first phase of research.
The qualitative research is comprising both archival and interview-based work. The quantitative research is investigating correlations between high rates of openings or closings of museums and attributes such as accreditation, governance, location, size, and subject matter. The new attributes Geodemographic Group/Subgroup and Deprivation Index are enabling new analyses into the demographic context of museums’ openings/closing, including cross-correlation of these aspects with the other museum attributes, and hence the charting of new geographies of museums.
Ongoing development work is extending the Web Application into a full Website to showcase the outcomes and findings of the project. We are also developing a new web service to allow the capture of data updates relating to existing museums and the insertion of data about new museums. There will be forms allowing the public upload of such data which will be subsequently validated by the project’s domain experts before being inserted into the database.
© Alexandra Poulovassilis, Nick Larsson, Val Katerinchuk