In conformance with the objectives of ILS 626, my goals in creating the Tools and Implements (TANDI) catalogue project have been:
The Tool and Implements catalogue, as it has been designed and to some extent implemented, is the concrete expression of a selected few of the tool-catalogue desiderata within a specific web implementation. I have been chiefly concerned:
Note that another statement of the information described by these two lists, which I have referred to throughout as "access" and "association" information, can be found in the pages attached to the information page, viz., the access page and the associations and contexts page .
Given the ambitious nature of these objectives, it should come as no surprise that their implementation has lagged somewhat behind. To date, the following items and features are in place.
In addition, several works (e.g. LCSH, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus, the Nomenclature museum cataloging system) have been examined with a view to establishing vocabulary control for both generic titles (uniform titles) and "subjects" (trade, craft, function names, etc.). None has proven adequate in itself, but may become so when used in combination with the "native" systems employed by contemporary literatures, especially trade literature.
From these, as well as from many of the contextual pieces that happened to be illustrated, perhaps 150 scanned images have been taken for web use, edited in TIFF format, and converted into GIFs and (occasionally) JPEG-format images.
Though the system is in place, not all of its features have been implemented, and none has been implemented with complete consistency, among the fifty sample records. Most items have been supplied with photos and reference material, several with "mates" information, three with MARC records, three with "spoor" links, half a dozen with historical links, and so on.
It has not yet been finally decided how to handle two situations that this system is likely to encounter: two or more items linking to the same piece of information, and one item having two more links to information in the same category (one or more of which may itself be shared with some other record). The first situation is particularly likely to arise in the case of the "mates" and "spoor" links: all late nineteenth-century scalpels and bistouries in the collection, for example, might suitably be linked to an 1889 chart of available scalpels and bistouries. My provisional solution is to link all the relevant entries to a single page, and to insert return paths to all the linked entries on that page as the links are added, despite the rather ad hoc nature of this solution. A fully automated system, beyond my technical expertise, one that (e.g.) generated html on the fly from database information, would render this question moot: the relevant page would be generated automatically each time the link was chosen. The second situation has been dealt with, also provisionally, by the web standard method of adding a level to the path: if all the historical information related to an item cannot be accommodated by a single page, it is placed on several pages, all linked through a single page that identifes the multiple materials available. Technically speaking, high-resolution images present a similar problem of levels. Most of the images in this demo version have been kept low-resolution and fairly small: in a couple of instances (the amputation kit and the carving kit), I have allowed myself the luxury of a high resolutio image linked through a low-resolution thumbnail on the "reference" or "photo" link page.
To date, the following items and features have been designed but are not yet fully implemented (if at all):
The development of even a small controlled vocabulary is a substantial undertaking and I have as yet only begun to try to reconcile the differences between my sources.
34 Records matched this request. Do you wish to (choose one) [LINK] View a title list of these records? [LINK] Scroll through the full records? [LINK] View thumbnail pictures of these items?Each image should link, of course, to the full record for the item.
To date, the following objective is still in the planning stage, and has not yet found a suitable embodiment in a workable design:
The structure of the demonstration site is laid out by means of the following linked files, available beginning at my SILS/SI index page, http://www.sils.umich.edu/~pfs/ and following the link there. Some lower-level files are not shown in this schematic.
Faced with such a bewildering array of desiderata as regards record type, access possibilities, search mechanisms, and flexible and expandable information linking, the chief issues and decisions have arisen from the need to accomplish all of these with a feasible system that could be implemented in the real world and designed, at least in outline, in one semester. One decision that I made at this nitty-gritty level, a defensible decision, I think, was to take inspiration from the Ohio medical artifacts cataloging project mentioned above. In doing the actual cataloging, I have followed the procedures developed by that project and promulgated in the Dittrick Museum's Cataloguing Manual (listed in the bibliography). One might view my project, at least potentially, as an attempt to adapt procedures developed for the AACR2/MARC cataloging of medical instruments on OCLC to wider use, applying it to a wider range of instruments and tools, but preserving its basic regard for bibliographic standards as a vehicle for access to artifact collections. As Linda J. Evans points out (Beyond the Book, 187ff), the bibliographic standards in general and MARC in particular are not particularly well suited to this use. I have not attempted to make MARC carry the burden of my additional subject categories (beyond those used by the Dittrick), but there is no reason that it should not do so, using the "local standards" options available in the subject fields, in addition to the allowable MeSH, AAT, and (?) Nomenclature terms.
Some of the procedures borrowed from Ohio include:
Beyond the procedural, important though that may be, lies the basic concept of the system. Only within an overall concept do individual parts make sense. The disparate desiderata and procedural distractions have made achieving this vision the most challenging portion of the assignment. As I conceive of the system in its interaction with users, the design must afford a clear (if not always an easy) route to any item searched for, a path inward from the world in which tools are contextually embedded to the appropriate records and the tools in the collection for which they are surrogates. It must also provide a way to re-establish context, once that route has been traversed and a tool or set of tools identified, including both information resident in the system, such as other relevant items, and information brought in from outside, such as often requires expert subject knowledge to identify on one's own.
This latter category, that of associations, connections, and contexts, has ended up taking a preponderance of my time, to the detriment of the access function. The fundamental decision made in this respect, perhaps a troublesome decision, was to leave the catalogue scalable and expandable and to allow uneven treatment of the collection. This seemed to me to be in keeping with the actual management of museum collections, as well as of archival ones, in which items deemed of little interest receive scanty treatment, while items deemed significant receive much more extensive treatment. It is designed furthermore to be a dynamic catalogue: as additional documentation is created for special events (exhibitions, or even a user's research), the results can be integrated immediately into the catalog. In fact, the catalog is flexible and powerful enough that it is even possible to create an exhibition within the catalog itself and use it to generate a printed or on-line exhibition catalogue, should that be desired, simply by preselecting the items and the links to be included.
One problem with imagining such a system, however, has been that in order to demonstrate it at all, I have needed to accumulate a great mass of subject knowledge; to exploit its resources fully, anyone would. I have needed to cease to be simply a librarian but also a tool collector, historian of surgery, and mechanic (and this in one semester). Still, it is vital that a museum cataloguing system be open ended, allowing encyclopedic treatment without (impossibly) insisting on it. It is possible to build this catalogue into a reference book or even an amalgam of all existing reference books on technological history; it is up to curator or librarian to draw the line on the external linking of relevant material, whether on a collection-wide or (more reasonably) ad hoc basis.
The ability to make internal links among the items in the collection has also proven to be both potentially powerful and potentially troublesome. On the positive side, the ability to attach "mates" or "historical" information, or to add subject headings at will to items deemed to be in some way related, (especially the former) permits expert knowledge such as might be gained by a curator or reference archivist to be actually incorporated within the system; allows someone giving a presentation, for example, to ascertain that toolA is a direct antecedent of toolB in the history of that technology, to say so in a lecture, and then to add the information to the catalog for the benefit of future users.
On the negative side, of course, such freedom can be exhausting to both cataloguer and user, a growing bulk of half-useful references distracting, and a tangled web of internal links a fair representation of chaos (just imagine what would happen if items had to be renumbered or renamed for some reason).
The inward route, on the other hand, though potentially even more complex, has two radically simplifying aspects: it must always end with an item actually in the collection, not in the informational world at large, and its underlying structure is verbal; in time, controlledly verbal. As it appears to the user and seeker, of course, this is not obvious: the inward route appears to be multiple and to offer alternatives between verbal, visual, conceptual and analogical paths.
Verbal access is afforded by fielded text searching with truncation, adjacency, and Boolean options. Generous use of headings and titles makes cold searches (i.e. searches without use of a thesaurus) unusually productive; most users will need choose no other path, since recall should be high. The field-limitation and other options permit precision to be high as well. The verbal option will be the most obvious choice, of course, when the pre-existing knowledge is also verbal: usually, names, whether of persons, places, companies, trades, or tools.
Visual access is afforded through two means: image browsing and visual indexing of distinctive features. Both are necessary (though the latter perhaps more so), because the functional nature and often ingenious origin of tools and related artifacts introduces in them small but vital differences searchable only by feature indexing, even while their general appearance, representable in a photograph, manifests a memorable, even an aesthetic character, that can most readily be searched for by an image-based mechanism.
Conceptual access, by which I here mean access via some sort of abstract consideration of function or means, though susceptible to verbal approaches, will be most directly served by the tree-based searching system that I have, unfortunately, had no success yet in implementing.
All of these processes of access depend on headings and labels that exist only in verbal form. A visual index of drawing knives depends for its association of those records on the title "drawing knife"; an image gallery that includes a machete and a pruning knife but not a scalpel depends on some such subject heading as "agricultural tools and equipment (to use the Nomenclature designation); one that includes a machete and a scalpel but not a winnow, on a designation like "edged tools." And the conceptual tree search is of course only a thesaurus hierarchically displayed and equipped with links. At the root of the catalogue, then, lies the power and the problem of controlled vocabulary and of naming practices generally. Museum cataloguers, as Evans points out (191), "must rely on their own traditions in formulating titles," a situation that has both resulted from and contributed to the lack of national artifact catalogs. In MARC terms, fields 655, 755, and 740, among the most important for artifact cataloguing, remain and (in the nature of things) must remain ill served by comprehensive thesauri. Even Nomenclature, the one thesaurus specifically aimed at the comprehensive naming of arifacts, is less a full list than a hierarchy, a naming method, and a preliminary list to which individual collections are invited to add local terms (Nomenclature, 16-7). My experience with Nomenclature suggests some of its deficiencies as well as its strength. It includes, for example, the surgical "trocar" --but only as a veterinary instrument; it does include, surprisingly, most of the specific plane types included among the sample entries -- plane, smoothing; plane, rabbet; plane, fillester -- but not the cooper's howel (perhaps regarded as the same as a compass plane) or cooper's leveler or sun plane (perhaps the same as a cooper's stoup plane); a scalpel but not a bistoury, a tenaculum but not an aneurism needle; a plumb bob ("unclassified tools and equipment") and a hog ringer ("ringer, animal-nose; animal husbandry tools and equipment") but not a "plierench" (though pliers may be subdivided by local terms).My own attempts to augment this list have depended heavily on trade literature: Tiemann, Truax, and Sharp & Smith, for example, for medical instruments; or the mammoth McMaster-Carr catalogue, alongside the Wards and Sears catalogues (which Nomenclature itself used), for tools and equipment generally. My decision has been to begin with Nomenclature and their techniques and hierarchy, at least for object names and hierarchical placement, and to expand from there, as they invite users to do.
Classification by "subject" (a debatable use of the MARC subject fields, by the way), such as trade, task, or function, is another matter, better handled by the general subject thesauri (AAT, MeSH, LCSH). Used in combination, these not only produce a mish-mash but leave large gaps among the trades especially, and among the trades of earlier times even more especially. Again, I have started with the standard thesauri but resorted to secondary for additional terms: some trade literature divides by trade and function or medical specialty, and other sources such as exhibition catalogues, industrial surveys (the famous "Manufactures of Sheffield" in the 18th century), and even treatises on heraldry (which divides all of society in its occupations and roles) can provide surprisingly helpful.
There is clearly much to be done, even aside from technical implementation, to bring this project into an acceptable intellectual state. The policy on vocabulary control, informal till now, must be made rigorous--must itself become subject to control. Policy on the use of MARC fields should be tightened up. What, exactly, counts as a subject or a title or a form or genre? And the many sections that are only in the planning stage need to be tested in practice. Though it should be apparent that this is very much a work in progress (and I am sorry to present it in such a state), I believe that the staggering breadth and complexity of task that I discovered that I had set myself, with its need to consider thesaurus creation, image managment, multiple means of access, encyclopedic linking, web technology, MARC formatting, and so on, all within a slowly developing concept of the desired end product--as well as the need to develop practical skills like file management, scanning and image management, and HTML along the way--more than account for its condition.
More positively, the pieces are in place for a catalog that represents a substantial advance, especially as regards remote access and flexibility, on most of those in the field.