U of A Museum launches online database to explore collection

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The collections of the U of A museum have become more accessible than ever.

From the first computer on campus to a meteorite that fell near Fayetteville in 1934, the museum houses a highly diverse collection of more than 7.5 million objects encapsulating archeology, history, ethnology, geology, and zoology.

A new online resource will feature these collections.

Museum staff and volunteers have created a publicly accessible online database. The database is hosted by Omeka, a platform for sharing digital collections and creating media-rich online exhibits.

“The database will transform the way people explore and use collections,” said Laurel Lamb, curator and project leader. “Until recently, only an internal database existed. The staff acted as an intermediary between the researchers and this database. of research in the hands of the public will broaden and improve use.”

The new database is essential to support the work of the museum, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing the diversity of Earth’s cultural and natural history, in ways that are inclusive for Arkansans and throughout the action research, education and awareness. When establishing the database, Lamb said the term “all” was at the forefront of his mind.

Whether you’re browsing museum highlights out of curiosity or narrowing down specific objects for a research project, it’s been developed for a wide range of purposes and users,” Lamb said.

The U of A campus community is especially encouraged to access this resource. From its beginnings as a teaching collection in the 1870s, the museum has long hosted U of A students and faculty. During the first month of the fall semester, three separate history classes from art have already visited the collections to study cultural materials from around the world. Providing digital access to objects through the database will enhance these experiences.

The resource will also encourage new users. For example, students can engage in unique and unexpected research experiences while faculty members can find inspiration for their courses through tangible materials that enhance learning.

Lamb said two students have already integrated the database into projects.

Freshman data science student Ruth Walters began volunteering at the museum over the summer. She participated in the review and revision of database entries. Over time, she noticed that the museum held a large collection of conical snails. She focused on these specimen entries and created an accompanying digital exhibit with photographs that link to specific entries in the database.

“In transitioning the University of Arkansas collection to a virtual environment, our goal is to test the boundaries of what defines a museum exhibit – allowing those who cannot travel to a museum to “walk through” an exhibition,” said Ernest Gann. , chairman of the museum’s advisory board, in reference to upcoming exhibits featured on the new resource. “I believe Omeka is a wonderful resource to help us accomplish this and see the museum’s vision come to fruition.”

Garrett Sherman, senior history major, is currently developing a different project – an interactive timeline that will contextualize specific Roman archaeological materials in the collections within the context of larger historical events that were occurring around them. Each featured object will be linked directly to its database entries for those who wish to learn more.

“My experience with Omeka has taught me a lot,” Sherman said. “The eventual integration of Omeka into my timeline project will allow for a deeper and more educational experience when viewing and accessing the project.”

David McNabb, acting associate dean of Fulbright College, commended museum staff and volunteers for their work in bringing this resource to the university and the state.

“This group has been working hard for months to make this resource accessible, public and easy to use – and their work will transform how we explore artifacts and objects from the company’s impressive history of innovation, research and service. ‘University of Arkansas,’ says Mc Nabb. “I look forward to seeing how our students, teachers, and researchers take advantage of this incredible new resource.”

With such a large collection in the museum, there are still many unpublished entries. However, new ones are added every week with the aim of making the entire collection searchable for everyone.

Click here to visit this exciting new resource here.

To learn more and speak with museum staff, contact Laurel Lamb at [email protected] / 479-575-4370.

About the University of Arkansas Museum: The University of Arkansas Museum is an administrative unit of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. University professors can request specimen loans for their courses or arrange to bring their courses on tour. Specimens and their associated documentation are available for comparison and research by faculty, qualified students, and visiting scholars. The museum also fulfills its mission of public service and outreach through community engagement programs and loans to other institutions for exhibits. Visiting the collections requires an appointment with the museum staff. Find out more on the museum’s website.

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