The National Database Project
of Norwegian University Museums

The Museum Project

Final report for the Museum Project

  Norwegian university museums are custodians of large bodies of knowledge and data about societies, culture, nature and the environment in Norway, both historical and current. An important role of the university museums has been the compilation and dissemination of this information. It is no accident that museums have formed the nucleus for the founding of Norwegian colleges and universities.

However, due to the magnitude and the organisation of the university collections,
they have not been readily accessible for use in research, teaching and public services or for inspection by the general public. In order to maintain their position as the country's leading institutions and information pools for object-based research, the university museums must revitalise their collections. An important step in this process is the introduction of information technology at all levels in the museums. However, this calls for an extremely costly reassessment and conversion of existing archives into a digital format, requiring extra effort and additional funding. In some cases, establishing the databases will entail a complete revision of some of the museum collections.


The Museum Project was established
in the spring of 1998 as a national collaborative project involving all four Norwegian universities. The idea behind this project is to make use of the experience and expertise gained through the previous database projects, the Documentation Project ( and a pilot project for the museums of natural history called UNADOC.

The Museum Project will comply with the recommendations
made by two commissions appointed by Norwegian authorities and with the United Nations' demands concerning global databases on the environment.
The aim of this Project
is to develop common database-systems for the management of collections for all the Norwegian university museums. Ideally, these database systems should be able to handle all reference information related to artefact and specimen collections inside and outside the museums. Important aspects include internal requirements regarding the management of collections, fieldwork, research and dissemination, and external demands from the authorities and the public concerning access to reference data.

The work is motivated by an ambition to develop IT-based systems that will offer users centralised and efficient access to information regarding the Norwegian cultural and natural heritage. With the help of common user interfaces and links between data from different fields of study, it will be possible to generate new information combinations and new insights in the various disciplines. Read more about the IT solutions here. The Museum Project is a partner of the ARENA project.
The Museum Project involves
the museums of natural history as well as the museums of cultural history. It is organised in various subsections, with sub-projects in the fields of archaeology, ethnography, cultural history, botany, zoology, geology and palaeontology. Each of the sub-projects is responsible for the digitisation of large collections, some so complex that getting even an overview is difficult. Once the digitised material is recorded, it undergoes a quality control procedure before being entered into databases. The completed databases will all be built on the same platform. This implies that while each database will accommodate the specific features of each collection the different databases will nonetheless be compatible with one another. The computer programs and methods used for the electronic recording of data will be determined by the structure of each collection, and to some extent by the traditions of each discipline.

The Museum Project was established with a central management
that reports to a national board with representatives from the four Norwegian universities. The national board reports to the national committee for university museums, appointed by the Norwegian Council of Universities'. The University of Oslo hosts the central project management.

The Museum Project includes a systems development group
that is responsible for modelling and constructing the databases. The Project employs at least one scientific consultant from a relevant discipline for each of the sub-projects. The consultant is responsible for the follow-up of the scientific aspects of the digitisation process and works in close co-operation with colleagues in the relevant field and with the Project's system developers.

The scientific consultants
are also responsible for the preparation and quality assurance of the work done by the Project's registration groups.

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