Archive content in the reading room
One of meemoo’s core tasks is to work together with our content partners to make archive content accessible. That’s why we’re now investigating how partners can provide visitors with secure access to their content in the meemoo archive system.
Our content partners are a diverse group of cultural, media and government organisations. They organise various public activities but don’t all have a reading room, which is why we’re discussing the possibility of making archive content accessible internally rather than simply ‘in the reading room’. One of the challenges we face is providing this access in a user-friendly way, taking various needs and expectations for the tool into account.
Some partners already have their own systems for providing access to content. But other partners don’t currently have a tool, or would like more helpful features than they have available at the moment, which is why we’re launching a tool that they can use to make content available to their visitors.
We’ve been preparing this project over the past year by holding a session at our partner event, which 12 content partners took part in, and with an extensive survey of our partners. The survey was sent out in December 2019 and ran until the end of February: 28 content partners completed it, with respondents mainly coming from archives and museums, although five performing arts organisations, a cultural heritage body, a heritage library and a public broadcaster also took part – meaning the entire breadth of our content partners is represented.
We mainly asked about:
the presence of a reading room and existing facilities;
potential users of the reading room tool;
the possible usage of the reading room tool compared to the other meemoo systems and platforms, in particular the meemoo archive system, The Archive and Catalogus Pro;
desired functionalities: what are the content partners’ needs and expectations from this tool?
access rights: is there a preference for a login or not, for example?
How it currently works
Around half the respondents indicated that they cannot yet provide access to their digital collections in house. This means that the audiovisual content stored in the meemoo archive system also cannot be made accessible yet. The majority of these partners would like this to be different in future. Content partners that have a reading room and provide access to their digital collections currently do so in a range of different ways: via their website, internal catalogues, the meemoo archive system, Vimeo, preparing content on the desktop or via a reading room PC.
Where our content partners want to go
For the question: ‘Who would use this reading room tool in your organisation?’ we can make a distinction between internal and external users.
The usual external groups such as scientific researchers, students, private individuals and fellow institutions score highly.
There’s also high demand for internal usage. Most people think mainly of internal staff who don’t have access to collections, such as public and research employees.
When asked about the most important functionalities, the answer is clear: user-friendliness and a good search function are crucial. Only two respondents say that it’s not important for them to display all their archive content, e.g. the digital photographic content that’s stored by meemoo.
Respondents also want to be able to perform analyses on data relating to the reading room tool usage, such as number of users, popular search terms and most consulted content.
Half the respondents say the reading room tool must allow internal staff to download low-resolution content. Downloads for reading room visitors appear to be less of a priority, although opinion is divided here.
Access to the tool outside of the reading room is very important for some respondents, but not at all for others. Being able to select favourites and highlight collections are obvious nice-to-haves. Using the tool to create clips is not a priority at all.
The above graph clearly shows that the most important reason for offering the reading room tool is to allow reading room visitors to search archive content themselves when they have a specific query.
We’re currently looking at the results from the survey in more depth, and the working group that’s supervising this process will meet for the first time in autumn 2020. This working group is comprised of content partners that expressed their interest in the process at the partner event and in the survey. The tool development is scheduled to start in the autumn of 2020 and will continue into 2021.
Do you have any questions about the reading room tool? Sarah will be happy to answer them.