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Introducing the Integrated Archive-Library-Museum Collection of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley

Introducing the Integrated Archive-Library-Museum Collection of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley

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A "position paper" prepared by Francesco Spagnolo, PhD, at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California in 2008.

The document attempted to organize the institutional notions of “collection” in conjunction with the adoption of the collection database and management software, IDEA@ALM, a system used to catalog and manage the holdings of the Magnes by integrating the best practices of archives, libraries and museums (ALM).
A "position paper" prepared by Francesco Spagnolo, PhD, at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California in 2008.

The document attempted to organize the institutional notions of “collection” in conjunction with the adoption of the collection database and management software, IDEA@ALM, a system used to catalog and manage the holdings of the Magnes by integrating the best practices of archives, libraries and museums (ALM).

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life on Sep 17, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/31/2014

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ALM@Magnes
 
Introducing the Integrated Archive-Library-Museum Collectionof the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley
Francesco Spagnolo, PhDHead of ResearchThe MagnesApril-September 2008 / Nissan-Elul 5768
  
 
This document was prepared in close collaboration with my colleagues, dr. Alla Efimova, Chief Curator, Elayne Grossbard, Judaica Curator, dr. Lara Michels, Associate Archivist and Librarian,and Perian Sully, Collection Information Manager, and would not exist in this form withouttheir help and contributions. Mistakes, omissions, and possible sources of misunderstandingare, of course, all due to myself.
 
ALM@Magnes
9/17/10
BACKGROUND
:
DEFINING
COLLECTIONS
The term, “collection” (from the Latin, “tying together,” “gathering”), holds a varietyof semantic connotations, typically ranging from monetary actions to theaccumulation of knowledge. In the latter sense, the term relates not only to theobjects of knowledge themselves (objects, documents, books, etc.), but also to a setspecific practices of describing knowledge, typically applied to institutions likearchives, libraries and museums. Within each institution, the term “collection” furtheracquires content-specific connotations that help defining its holdings on the bases of their origin, acquisition, and interpretation.At the Magnes, we apply the concepts of collection to a variety of holdings:
Holdings located in a specific
facility 
(the archive, library and museumcollections);
Holdings reflecting the legacy of specific
donors
(e.g. the “Strauss” or “Satchko” Collections),
The three collecting areas outlined in our
Collecting Plan
(“modern andcontemporary art,” “ceremonial and decorative art,” and “historical and archivalcollections”);
A wide array of intellectual and thematic
organizational models
reflectingtypologies, geographic origins, historical events, etc. (e.g., the Textile, India, orInquisition Collections).This semantic fluidity, which greatly enhances our ongoing interpretation of a uniquegathering of cultural testimonies about the global history and culture of the Jews,has often been translated into ambiguous work practices: our archives store booksand objects that would normally belong in the museum storage, archival and librarymaterials are accessioned in the museum collection only when included in exhibitionprograms, registration records for the archive and the museum are kept separate,etc.Due to the overlapping of some these notions, we have often found ourselveswondering how to best organize our human and intellectual resources, both forinternal purposes and in view of public presentation.This document attempts to organize our notions of “collection” in conjunction withthe adoption of the database management software, IDEA@ALM. This new systempromises to allow us to catalog and manage our holdings by integrating the bestpractices of archives, libraries and museums (ALM), while maintaining a globalperspective.The database project, which sets a new standard in the description of the objects of culture, is part of a broader plan to achieve a new level of internal organizationalclarity, or vision, for the Magnes. The project serves a host of purposes centered onthe presentation of a publicly accessible repository of reliable collection information,which offers historical and documental approaches to textual, visual and materialcultures.In this document, which is conceived as a work in progress and as an integration tothe Collecting Plan, we briefly focus on three topics: ALM integration; the place(s) of  “collections” in the database; and the description of the cultural goals that await theMagnes staff in the months to come.
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ALM@Magnes
9/17/10
1. ALM
INTEGRATION
 
The IDEA@ALM database allows us to describe the holdings of the Magnes asbelonging to three distinct areas: the Archive, the Library and the Museum, eachcharacterized by a separate databank, which is defined by content-specific templatesthat enable the creation of accurate catalog entries.Accuracy of information in the database depends to a great extent on ensuring thatthe templates conform to practices that are discipline-specific. Therefore, while theintegration of Archive, Library and Museum records within the database requires aprofessional staff that is open and flexible in the implementation of a highlyinterdisciplinary approach, maintaining each ALM databank requires the following of proper descriptive practices, which are discipline-specific.Integrating the information about the Archive, Library and Museum items proceeds intwo ways:
Extension
of discipline-specific notions and practices traditionally associated withone platform to the others; i.e., the Archive model to describe collections isextended to Library and Museum items; Library circulation practices are used tomonitor research activities for the entire ALM collection; and the Museum notionsof authorship/creatorship are extended to Archive and Library records.
 Integration
of discipline specific notions and practices into new ALM models;i.e., notions of chronology and history that integrate dates and periods derivedfrom Archive, Library and Museum practices; integrated local and global subjectsand vocabularies; use of synonyms and preferred terms to create multi-lingualand multi-cultural collection information; etc.
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