Classics and Archaeology Virtual Museum

Databases

Objects Database

The 2183 objects in the collections have been distributed among five Primary Categories:

Primary Category
Records

Artefacts (including two bones and one textile, and non-ceramic vases)

266

Coins

745

Sculpture (excluding those with inscriptions)

154

Texts (including those with sculptural elements)

105

Vases (ceramic only)

913

All objects are now included in a single object database. The web user can select a primary category and search using pop-up lists of criteria appropriate to each category of object. The search results display is customized to match each primary category. The object details display presents only the fields that are of interest to that category.

Cross-category searches are also available. The object database can also be searched to find objects from the same findspot, for example, or objects whose descriptions include a particular word. Although the results of such a search are listed generically, the details display is always appropriate to the primary category of the object. A similar functionality is invoked if the user searches by a reference number such as the Accession no., Other no., Previous no. or Site Registration no.

The alternative model - a separate database for each primary category - was fully developed and tested. Multiple object databases were initially thought to be the best solution for searching and displaying fields that are unique to a particular primary category, and for avoiding the display of fields that are not relevant to that category. The pop-up value lists supplied on the search pages for a given field included only the values appropriate to each primary category rather than the sometimes extensive list of all of the values entered into that field for all objects in the database. But database upkeep and management became a complex process, and the design allowed too many opportunities for error or omission. The desirable aspects of the multiple database model have now been built in to the single comprehensive database. The disadvantage of the single database model is that, for a number of fields, a custom value list has to be created for each category of object and must be edited whenever a new value is entered into one of the relevant fields. Given that the collection is fairly stable and new objects are not added every day, this seemed to be the less evil.

The full objects database currently occupies 5.7 mb under the Macintosh HFS+ disk architecture; the publicly accessible version occupies 3.7 mb.

Databases have also been constructed of the Middle Eastern Manuscripts, from the Conservation Report, and of the Egyptian Collection at Queens College. The objects in these databases have not yet been included in the Virtual Museum.

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Images Database

The Images database records include the following information about each image file:

Image records
23156

Generally, there is one record in the images database for each file in the images folders. However, there are 23156 records in the images database and 23300 files in the images folders. This disparity of 144 files is explained as follows:

Explanation
Files
Records

Movies have an .htm file to display them. There are 107 movies and 106 .htm files (one .htm file displays two movies).

213
106

"movies" folder has "movlist.htm" file, called from top page of site.

1
0

"movies" folder and "moviesx" folder each have a background gif file.

2
0

Five image files have three objects in them.

5
15

30 image files are called from the Bab edh-Dhra' site page.

30
0

14 Greek transcription image files are called by corresponding .htm files.

14
0

Totals

265
121

The website image files number 9205 and the website image database holds 9152 records. This disparity of 53 files is explained in the same way as previously. The main difference is that the website has only 16 of the movies (i.e. 31 files, 15 records) and no "moviesx" folder.

All source images represented on the kiosk are available in a small version on the website. All image files and all text files on the website are available on the kiosk.

The website images database occupies 1.7 mb under the Macintosh HFS+ disk architecture; the kiosk version 4.8 mb.

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Relationships Between Databases

The Images database displays information from the objects database, such as the accession number of the object portrayed in a particular image.

The Objects database displays a list of images associated with each object.

The crucial link between the two databases is the key number of the object. For the purposes of the Virtual Museum, each object has been given a unique key number. The object's accession number was not used because the Virtual Museum includes objects that do not have an accession number, such as those that are on loan and some of those that are missing. For display purposes within the Virtual Museum, however, it became necessary to assign these unaccessioned objects a dummy accession number, and they have all been assigned the dummy accession number 0000.0000.

Key numbers used to date (30 September 1999) are within the range 1-2170, with five gaps: 890, 1605, 1888, 2098, 2110. After the gaps are filled, the next unassigned key number is 2171.

Classics manuscripts are in the range 15011-15038, but with a number of gaps. The key numbers assigned in the Gallery database to the classics manuscripts were: 15011, 15013, 15015, 15017, 15019, 15021, 15023, 15024, 15025, 15027, 15028, 15030, 15031, 15033, 15035, 15036, 15037, 15038. These numbers have been preserved in the Virtual Museum.

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Gallery Database

The Virtual Museum objects database started as a download from the Gallery's database, which was established in the 1980s and modified in 1993 specifically for the 1987 Cypriot purchase. Subsequently, Gallery records for the classics manuscripts were added. This was further supplemented by information from the NES databases that had been constructed by Guy Bunnens. These originals - containing nearly 1,000 records - have been archived. The key numbers originally downloaded from the University Gallery's database have been preserved.

During the course of the Virtual Museum Project some 1,400 additional objects have been added to the Virtual Museum and assigned arbitrary key numbers. The new Virtual Museum database key numbers may, however, be the same as those assigned to other objects in the Gallery's database.

Accession numbers for the new objects have been assigned by the Ian Potter Museum of Art and should be the same in both databases and the Museum's accession records. During the course of the Project, however, some corrections were made to new and existing accession numbers. These changes were made in the Potter Museum's accession register. They may not have been recorded in the Potter Museum's database, and no check has been made that worksheets were started or completed for the new accessions.

The fields downloaded from the Gallery's database have also been preserved, though sometimes there has been a minor change of fieldname (e.g. "Title / Description" has become "Commentary" or just "Description"). A couple of redundant fields have been deleted. The information in the fields has been extensively edited and added to, and the Virtual Museum databases should now be taken as a more authentic record than the Gallery's database.

The Virtual Museum databases contain a number of new fields that were not in the Gallery database.

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Database Fields

There are at present 126 fields in every Object record and 6 more fields in every record in the Images database. Groups of fields (click to see more detail) include:

A list of the fields used in the Virtual Museum includes information about which database layout each of the fields must appear in and which formatting documents receive the content of those fields and format it for display on the web.

For database management purposes, a separate database called "fieldsdb" has been constructed. This lists all the fields in the databases and gives a description of the content. It should be regarded as the Virtual Museum supplement to the 1993 Cataloguer's Manual for the University of Melbourne Cypriot Collection, by Annette Welkamp, which specified field content for the Gallery's database.

The Objects database serves two major functions. It is available for users of the Virtual Museum, but it also acts as a register and collection control resource for the University. Because of the irrelevance of much of this information to the user of the Virtual Museum, and because some of the fields contain confidential information, certain fields should be not be included in copies of the database that are publicly accessible.

This can be achieved simply by importing all records into a prepared 'clone' or template of the Objects database and matching the field names in the clone. The word "public" is included in the name of this clone/template, which is found in the databases folder.

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Value Lists

A lists of values assigned to a particular field in the database is called a value list.

Clicking on a field that has an assigned value list displays a list of values that can be selected to enter into the field. The advantages are obvious -no typing errors, no need to invent values, no search failures.

The various search layouts for the VM nominate a set of value lists as appropriate to the type of search, which can be a cross-category search (by keyword in the description or by reference no.) or a search customized to each of the five primary categories of objects.

Some value lists are computer-generated lists of all the values that have been entered into the field. If you add a value to the field, that value is added automatically to the list. In the Virtual Museum, there are a number of such automatic value lists, some of them for use when searching across categories of objects and others intended for specific categories:

All categories

Accession no.

All categories

Collection

All categories

Country

All categories

Description

All categories

Findspot

All categories

Material

All categories

Secondary Category

All categories

Set

Coins

Issuing Authority

Coins

Mint

Coins

Region

Sculpture

Sculptor

Texts

Author

Texts

Language

Vases

Painter

Vases

Potter

Vases

Ware

Value lists of this type are useful when searching across the entire collection - all possible search values are included in the list, and all you have to do is to select rather than type (or invent). The disadvantage is that the lists are often very long and include values not relevant to the type of object you may be interested in.

Other value lists are custom designed and remain fixed unless you edit the value list (which only the administrator of the databases can do). When a new record is entered with a completely new value in one of its fields, the corresponding value list must be edited manually, so maintenance of these lists can be quite a chore. The advantage of custom value lists is that only the field values relevant to a particular primary category of object are displayed to select from when you choose search criteria.

In the Virtual Museum, custom value lists with the following names have been created for the specified fields of the various primary categories of objects:

Primary category

Field

Value list

All categories

Primary category

Primary Category

All categories

Set

Set

Artefact

Country

rtfctcountry

Artefact

Findspot

rtfctfindspot

Artefact

Material

rtfctmat

Artefact

Medium

rtfctmed

Artefact

Secondary category

rtfctseccat

Artefact

Type

rtfcttype

Coin

Material

coinmat

Sculpture

Country

sculptcountry

Sculpture

Findspot

sculptfindspot

Sculpture

Material

sculptmat

Sculpture

Medium

sculptmed

Sculpture

Secondary category

sculptseccat

Sculpture

Type

sculpttype

Text

Country

textcountry

Text

Findspot

textfindspot

Text

Material

textmat

Text

Medium

textmed

Text

Secondary category

textseccat

Text

Type

texttype

Vase

Country

vasecountry

Vase

Findspot

vasefindspot

Vase

Material

vasemat

Vase

Secondary category

vaseseccat

Vase

Type

vasetype

When a new record has been added to the database and a new value added to one of the nominated fields, the corresponding custom value list in the objects database has to be updated. The current custom lists have been created by massaging lists of the values entered into a field for all objects in a particular category of object.

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