Objects Entry Book
Fixed entry rules should be used to document and record heritage objects in digital management systems. This ensures that the information is uniform and complete, and can be used both within and outside the heritage institution’s walls. In order to help registrars with this, we have made the Objects Entry Book (Invulboek Objecten) available on our CEST knowledge platform. This entry book is a handbook with descriptive rules for documenting heritage objects in collection management systems.
Previous versions of the entry book were the MovE and Erfgoedinzicht entry books, which were both aimed at Adlib users. The publication was then transformed into a generic handbook in the period 2016-2020, with the aim of integrating all the provincial heritage databases in Flanders. This made the entry book usable for a wider variety of collection management systems and standards.
In order to preserve information about heritage objects in a uniform and complete way, and ensure it can be used easily both within and outside a heritage institution’s walls, it needs to be documented and recorded in a digital management system using certain rules – hence the need for the Entry Book.
What started as an initiative from the East-Flanders province of Belgium in the form of the MovE entry book (2006-2012), then became a handbook with descriptive rules to accompany the Erfgoedinzicht online heritage database, an initiative from the provinces of East- and West-Flanders, in 2013. The MovE entry book was designed for users of Erfgoedinzicht and Adlib software for registering collections.
When initial plans were announced to transfer the various provincial heritage databases to Flemish policy level, we asked ourselves how the Entry Book could be managed technically and with regard to content moving forward. We also needed to know how the knowledge in the Entry Book could be preserved for heritage purposes, independent of current or future management systems.
Together with Livia Snauwaert, provincial heritage consultant until 2017 and actively involved in the previous history of the current Entry Book, we came to the conclusion that our projectcest.be knowledge platform was a good place to safeguard the knowledge contained within the Entry Book.
CEST is a platform that caters for the entire sector rather than just Erfgoedinzicht users. As a Wikimedia platform, CEST is suitable for collective management and knowledge-sharing, so it’s a good place to keep a record of cultural heritage objects in a generic entry book. It also has potential to link the entry book to other guidelines and sources relating to heritage digitisation.
The technical challenge came from importing the Microsoft Access database from the MovE entry book into the CEST wiki. We also set ourselves a goal with regard to content: to broaden the handbook’s target audience from just Adlib users to all collection registrars, regardless of the system they work with. In the period 2016-2020, we therefore worked diligently together with an editorial board in order to transform the entry rules in accordance with the new version 5.0 of the SPECTRUM standard. We finished incorporating the former MovE Entry Book and the object and procedure groups from SPECTRUM 5.0 in 2021. Then, together with the editorial board, we started researching other information groups that capture data about various heritage objects’ contexts. We’re hoping to include these types of fields in the entry book in the course of 2022.
The Entry Book is now managed by:
the Flemish Community’s Department of Culture, Youth and Media;
the editorial board, comprised of specialists from the heritage sector.
But anyone from the sector can make suggestions and provide feedback via the wiki.
What is the Objects Entry Book?
The Object Entry Book is a guide for recording and documenting objects that can be used in various collection management systems. A link to the corresponding heritage standards – i.e. SPECTRUM 5.0. – is also provided for each field along with links to various other collection management systems, such as Adlib from Erfgoedinzicht, TMS and Qi.
The Objects Entry Book is a work in progress. It contains descriptive rules for the main SPECTRUM procedures, but is gradually being expanded and edited one step at a time. Because it’s a wiki, you can therefore also document links with corresponding fields in your own collection management system.
The Entry Book is structured as follows:
Groups combine all the properties for a particular aspect of a heritage object or related event (e.g. identification or acquisition);
Elements describe a specific property of a heritage object or related event (e.g. title or acquisition method);
Fields describe the various components of a property as they are recorded in a collection management system (e.g. type of title or term of acquisition method). Fields contain the actual descriptive rules and links to standards and systems;
Profiles combine various elements and fields that help collection managers to determine the descriptive rules and procedures which are important for their collection (e.g. minimum registration profile).
You can see the presentation that was given to representatives of the heritage databases at a meeting in June 2019 here:
Why should you use the entry book and who is already doing so?
The entry book helps institutions to create good-quality metadata together at the source, i.e. in the collection registration system. Good-quality metadata is a prerequisite for having findable and usable information about collections. The Objects Entry Book is already widely used today, by organisations affiliated with the Erfgoedinzicht and Erfgoedplus heritage databases.
Figures from our CEST knowledge platform also show this. For example, the most visited page between 2018 and 2021 was the Objects Entry Book home page, and visitors stay longer on pages in the Objects Entry Book on average. Which fields have been looked into the most since the start of the entry book? The ‘Object name term’ field is top of the list with more than 4,400 hits. The ‘Number of parts’ and ‘Physical description text’ fields, with over 3,000 hits each, make up the top three. Other frequently consulted fields include:
Description of dimensions - 2,836
Title - 2,249
Object category term - 1,993
Name of maker - 1,928
Object number value - 1,831
Brief description - 1,807
Content term - 1,743
Number of examples - 1,712
Name of storage institution - 1,670
In future, together with our partners, we want to focus more on collecting new profiles (contemporary art, mechanical musical instruments, etc.) and connections to linked data standards. We’re also aiming to expand the Entry Book with a ‘Publications’ section alongside the current ‘Objects’ section.
New profiles under the microscope
We’re already making headway in the first part and collecting new data profiles. Various partners from the sector are working on:
profiles for describing specific heritage objects, drawn up by heritage institutions themselves or as part of the Digital Collection Registration Peer Group (link in Dutch);
a profile for mechanical musical instruments (with the Department for Culture, Youth and Media in collaboration with Museum Vleeshuis, the Musical Instruments Museum and Museum Speelklok);
a profile for contemporary arts (developed by the Department for Culture, Youth and Media, M HKA Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp and other partners);
a profile for basic registration as linked data (with meemoo, CoGhent and the Objects Entry Book Editorial Board).
We will add further mapping between the Objects Entry Book and the OSLO (link in Dutch) linked data standard for heritage objects in the framework of this last profile. This will make it easier to map all heritage collections in accordance with OSLO.
Steps taken from the Publications Entry Book
The Publications Entry Book (link in Dutch) is an addition to the existing entry book, which serves as a handbook with descriptive rules for documenting publications in a library management system. The handbook adopts the regular description standards currently used in the library sector – in particular ISBD, MARC21 and RDA – as its starting point. We’ve already drawn up a profile for old prints (link in Dutch) in collaboration with Flanders Heritage Library in 2020-2021.
The next steps in this process? We will finish the entry instructions over the course of 2022. An intern from the graduate training course in Information Management: Library and Archives will assist us with this. We’re also continuing to develop data profiles for specific types of library collections.