Auckland Museum boasts one of New Zealand's leading research libraries, where the public, staff and researchers can access thousands of insightful and historically important resources. The Museum Library maintains an impressive collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, paintings and other documents, many of which have proved invaluable to Museum studies, local history and research. Now, for the first time in the Library's 138 year history, the public can access the Library's extensive catalogue online.
An electronic database of the Library's collection has been maintained for many years, but the catalogue could not be accessed by the public online. Now the Museum's catalogue of over 65,000 text records and 15,000 images is available online through MUSE, a web-based interface and search engine. Atlantech has developed MUSE to import records from the Museum's dbTextWorks database in order to populate a publicly searchable Library catalogue. MUSE combines a user-friendly interface with a quick and powerful search tool.
A template-based design allows the MUSE search engine to be displayed in a variety of different ways. The workstations in the Museum employ a graphical Library catalogue interface, while the website and staff intranet employ generic Museum interfaces. All of the interfaces are simple and easy to use, offering clear instructions and useful search tips.
The MUSE search engine provides a high level of flexibility, with both basic and advanced searches. The advanced search offers multiple search fields, including keyword, author, title, date, and record type. Search results can easily be refined by entering different search terms into the various fields. Users can even choose to filter out records that do not contain images.
Searching with MUSE typically produces results that are more useful to the general public than the Library's specialised database software. The quantity and relevancy of results makes MUSE a powerful search tool for both casual users and researchers alike. Results can be ordered alphabetically by different fields, including author, title or type of record. If too many results are obtained, filtering out irrelevant results is a simple process.
MUSE is a truly cross-media search engine, as different types of records can be found with a single search. For example, the results from a single search could include books, manuscripts and photographs, rather then just one type of record. This flexibility also allows the Library catalogue to include records that do not relate directly to physical resources. Examples of this include an electronic database of Auckland's streets and an archive of Maori Land Court settlements.
The MUSE search engine employs powerful cross-referencing technology to link individual records to relevant categories and resources. Users can browse other works by the same author, or search for related records, with a single click. This level of cross-referencing greatly increases a user's access to useful resources.
The MUSE system also offers many advantages to Museum staff. Multi-level access allows librarians to search data fields that are inaccessible to the public. This means that librarians and staff can refer to important curatorial data which is not useful to the public, but essential for research and database maintenance.
Museum staff are very pleased with the MUSE system. Bruce Ralston, the Museum's Library Services Manager, considers MUSE a cost-effective and "successful means of presenting the Library's material." The search engine is already relied upon by a variety of users, both at the Museum and online. "Visitors often come to the Library with print-outs from the online catalogue," says Ralston. "We can also refer visitors to the online catalogue," he says, "which helps to increase awareness about the Museum's website."
Auckland Museum is constantly adapting to international curatorial trends, and Ralston believes that the scalability and flexibility of MUSE will become increasingly important in the future. As the Museum strives for a world-leading online presence, Atlantech's support and ingenious software will continue to make the Museum's goals a reality.