A catalogue of problems: database design issues in the context of historical data series
Exhibition catalogues would seem at first glance to be ideal for conversion to a database to allow more effective interrogation of the data. Objects (exhibits) come with ready made descriptions and metadata. In the case reported here the process was less straightforward than expected, due to unanticipated characteristics of the data. Although in retrospect the exhibitions appear to us as a series, at the time they were discrete annual events and while there was some continuity from year to year, inevitably over the 46 year period in question there were changes in exhibition content, structure and presentation. Such variations can create ambiguities and complexity which in turn create challenges for the information designer with respect to how far one should summarise, aggregate and interpret the data to make it more usable. There is a trade-off between simplification of the search/browse functions and simplification of results. While there is no simple correct solution to these sorts of issues because they depend as much as anything on the needs and abilities of the target user population iterative user trials based on prototypes can help to identify where the balance should be struck.
Citation : Brown, S. (2008) A catalogue of problems: database design issues in the context of historical data series. In: M. Tsipopoulou (ed.) Proceedings of Digital Heritage in the New Knowledge Environment: shared spaces & open paths to cultural content. Hellenic Ministry of Culture: Athens, 31 October – 2 November 2008, pp. 33-36. Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture Directorate of the National Archive of Monuments.
Research Group : Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Design