Please note: This experimental research project has concluded.
The research prototype application is no longer supported or maintained by OCLC services, and information on this page is provided for historical purposes only. Some portion of this content may be out-of-date and include broken links. Please visit the OCLC Research website to learn more about our current research.

Museum Data Exchange

This project created tools supporting standards-based data sharing in the museum community. The metadata publishing tool COBOAT, developed by Cognitive Applications Inc. (Cogapp), extracts CDWA Lite XML out of collections management systems, and works hand-in-hand with OAICatMuseum, an OAI-PMH data content provider managing the transfer of data from server to server. These tools were developed with the generous support of a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the active involvement of five museums from the RLG Partnership. A report, Museum Data Exchange: Learning How to Share (pdf: 2MB/50 pp.), was published in February 2010 detailing the analysis of records from nine museums shared using these (and other) tools.


RLG Partnership art museums share an interest in being able to exchange information about collection items within their own institution, with other art museums and with aggregators of content. By and large, collections management systems make little provisions for exporting data in a standard format or exposing it for harvesting via OAI-PMH.


Standards-based museum records drive an increasing number of processes, such as submitting data to aggregators like ARTstor or ArtsConnectEd; sharing data with other libraries, archives and museums in a campus environment; transferring data from collections management systems to presentation systems such as OMEKA; and submitting data to controlled vocabularies such as the Getty's Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA). A suite of shared and adaptable tools makes these activities economically feasible, and allows them to scale.


With the generous support of a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the RLG Partnership and OCLC Research committed to:

  • Creating a low-barrier / no-cost batch export capability for CDWA Lite XML out of the collections management system used by the participating museums (GallerySystems TMS)
  • Modeling data exchange processes using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) at the participating museums
  • Creating an aggregation of museum content within OCLC Research for analysis
  • Discussing the evidence about the relative utility of the aggregation with stakeholders from the museum, vendor and aggregator community

The following institutions participated in the creation and deployment of the data sharing tools: Harvard Art Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Princeton University Art Museum; Yale University Art Gallery. The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the National Gallery of Canada and the Victoria & Albert Museum participated in the creation of the research aggregation, and the data analysis. These institutions represent a subset of the participants in the Museum Collection Sharing Working Group, which incubated the grant.


Since the first project meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on January 28th and 29th 2008, we have passed the following milestones:

  • Software: COBOAT and OAICatMuseum 1.0 software packages have been released for general community use.
  • Research Aggregation: OCLC Research harvested 887,572 CDWA Lite XML records from nine participating museums and created a temporary research aggregation. Six of the museums used the infrastructure created by the project, three employed alternative mechanisms.
  • Data Analysis: An analysis of the contributed records characterized the adherence to applicable standards within the research aggregation, and resulted in guidance to maximize the data's value.
  • Discussion and dissemination: A final project meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on July 27th 2009 brought together all museum participants, as well as data aggregators and vendors, for a preliminary view of the data analysis, and discussions surrounding the production use of data sharing tools in the community.

The following documents were created to faciliate these efforts:

  • Third Party Researcher Access Aggreement - The agreements with museums participating in the Museum Data Exchange included a provision which allowed, through 2010, a third party researcher to take possession of data from the project under the terms of the original letters of agreement to analyze the research aggregation and publish findings.
  • Criteria for Scoring (CCO Evaluation) - This .pdf briefly outlines general findings from Patricia Harpring's CCO analysis of the ca. 900K CDWA Lite records aggregated as part of the Museum Data Exchange. The bulk of the document lays out a methodology for evaluating CDWA Lite against CCO.
  • MDE Analysis Methodology - This .pdf file outlines the array of possible questions for the museum data in CDWA Lite XML format surfaced by the Museum Data Exchange project.
  • CDWA Lite, CCO, COBOAT Mapping - This Excel spreadsheet lists all content-bearing data elements and attributes defined by CDWA Lite, maps them to CCO and indicates which of these data elements are part of the COBOAT default mapping.


See COBOAT and OAICatMuseum for details about the software associated with the Museum Data Exchange project.

More Information


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Most recent updates: Page content: 2011-11-30


Bruce Washburn