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More than a decade later, few museums have agreed to give exclusive distribution rights to outside vendors. In 2004, Tanner found that seventy percent of the one hundred American museums studied managed rights and licensing in-house. Twenty-seven percent used one or more commercial distributors in conjunction with in-house efforts, and only two percent had exclusive distributor agreements with outside agents. It seems that museums have learned that there are multiple ways to work with outside distributors and alternatives to exclusive licensing arrangements. Tanner, “Reproduction charging models&rights policy for digital images in American art museums,” 16-17.

Difficulty of preparing data


Long before the birth of shared bibliographic utilities such as OCLC and RLG, librarians, understanding that consistency would aid access and retrieval, applied standards to the work of describing and classifying books. The retrospective conversion of library-printed catalog cards to electronic format was made possible because the underlying information utilized controlled vocabularies for names, places, and subject terminology.

Museum databases

By comparison, the development of online databases for museum objects has been greatly hampered by the lack of consistency in the source records. Art objects seldom self-identify the way books do, proclaiming author, title, place of publication, and dates on their title pages. Objects of different ages, cultures, and media are all described differently within a single museum, and there is even less consistency across museums. Not surprisingly, museums have struggled with record conversion over the last thirty years, trying to capture the richness of some of the original cataloging records and enhance the minimal information found in other object records.

Standards for vocabulary, cataloging, and data exchange

Recent developments in the museum community address the historic lacunae of terminology, a concise set of data elements, and cataloging guidelines for documenting works of art and their image surrogates. The J. Paul Getty Trust has provided valuable leadership, developing thesauri for names, places, and subject terminology, and publishing guides to digital imaging and art image access. The Getty vocabularies are compliant with ISO and NISO standards for thesaurus construction. They can assist in cataloging cultural heritage objects, serve as knowledge bases for researchers, and offer terminology to enhance discovery in online resources. For information about and access to these databases, see (External Link) . Getty Research Institute staff have worked with ARTstor and RLG Programs/OCLC to develop a data content standard designed for the description of unique cultural objects and a technical format for expressing this information in a machine-readable format called Categories for the Description of Works of Art Lite (CDWA-Lite). CDWA-Lite: (External Link) . In addition, the Getty and the Visual Resources Association have collaborated on the development and promulgation of guidelines for selecting, ordering, and formatting art object information in a project called Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO). Cataloging Cultural Objects: (External Link) .

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Source:  OpenStax, Art museum images in scholarly publishing. OpenStax CNX. Jul 08, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10728/1.1
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