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DigiCULT
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libraries, archives and museums demon-
strating best practice in their approach to
stewardship.They were selected to show-
case what could be achieved at different
operational scales and in diverse environ-
ments.While the main emphasis was
directed to the world of real objects in
real-world environments, the migration of
many collections into the world of digital
artifacts, virtual collections and metadata
also presented stewardship challenges.
Relevant sites supporting digitisation issues
for libraries, archives and museums have
been included as well.
T
he twenty best stewardship sites are
identified on page 10 of the report
Advocacy of Stewardship on the Web:
http://www.resource.gov.uk/documents/id
693rep.pdf
SHORTCOMINGS IN THE WEBSITES
W
hile the study noted that there
were many positive aspects to stew-
ardship resources on the Web, there were
also shortcomings. Many heritage Web sites
in the UK failed to do justice to the col-
lections they hold.There appeared to be an
assumption that commercial information
was all the online viewer wanted or need-
ed. It was noted that there was a failure to
re-engineer booklets and handouts from
the physical world for the Web in order to
speed up download times. Only occasion-
ally was any attempt made to fully utilise
the functionality of the Web by treating
the user as a vital partner in the enterprise,
a source of deposits, useful information
and donations.This contrasted strongly
with the best sites in the United States,
Australasia and Europe where the partner-
ship between research and collections
management and delivery was transparent
and informs the commercial perspective,
rather than being opposed to it.
dial-up to 600K Broadband and 2MB
Local Area Networks. None of the
reviewed sites performed in an unreason-
ably slow way, though graphics-intensive
examples benefited from a connection at a
speed greater than 56K.This wide range of
hardware, software and connection speeds
provided a good test-bed for real-world
usage. No particular effort was made to
find sites that made use of audio content
although clever and effective sounds were
found on several of the more interactive
sites.
RESULTS
S
ite availability was very high; only one
site out of over one hundred was
unavailable during our tests, and then only
for three days.The top-rated sites (scoring
5) were spread widely around the world,
with 40% coming from North America and
another quarter from Europe and Australia.
This reflected both the international distri-
bution of major trade bodies and the strong
voice of well-funded American institutions.
This list was also dominated by national
organisations.The United Kingdom was
clearly the dominant nation in the Very
Useful category (scoring 4) with a dozen
English sites and three from Scotland. Part
of this strength stemmed from the desire of
the research team to assess all the relevant
bodies in the UK and part came from the
team's superior knowledge of the UK
scene in each domain.
A
surprising and welcome revelation was
the finding that a substantial portion
of the stewardship sites were equally rele-
vant for libraries, archives and museums,
although, somewhat oddly, no sites specifi-
cally relevant to the museum and library
combination were given a high rating.
T
wo broad categories of sites were evi-
dent.The first, those promoting stew-
ardship, were mostly provided by industry
bodies and national institutions, or were
rooted in academia.The second were those
RESEARCH
R
esearch was carried out in February
and March 2003. Over 100 sites
were examined and graded on a five-point
scale according to their likely usefulness to
individuals or organisations engaged in any
aspect of delivering stewardship (5 for the
Best sites down to 1 for sites that provided
no real information, and 0 if the Website
could not be located). In the full study,
detailed reviews were provided for the
twenty best sites, with commentaries on
their individual strengths. Direct links were
provided by URLs to the top level of the
area of each site most relevant to steward-
ship issues.
C
are was taken to ensure a fairly even
spread of sites across the museum,
library and archive domains. Examples
were explicitly sought from English-lan-
guage sites around the world.Where there
were similar organisations in a geographical
area with relevant content, such as the
national libraries in Australasia, only the
most useful example was kept in the `Best'
group.
W
hile the research team took every
care to review sites rigorously and
fairly, the review process was at least as
much an art as a science. If navigation
directions within a site did not lead an
experienced researcher to stewardship
advocacy material by a short and clear
path, we felt that it was not appropriate to
rank the site `Best' as there were sufficient
sites that combined easy navigation with
effective information provision which
received our highest rating.
E
quipment and technology used to
view the sites were only partially stan-
dardised. All reviewers employed
Microsoft's Internet Explorer Version 5 as a
browser.The hardware included computers
running various Windows and Macintosh
operating systems. Internet connections
were made at speeds ranging from 56K
"A substantial portion of stewardship sites
were equally relevant for libraries, archives
and museums."