Establishing Authority Data in Museums: There’s Still Much to Be Done

Institut für Museumsforschung

Authority data offer an important basis for networking museums and their holdings. The 2021 museum statistics indicate the level of need for information in this area. Fittingly, the online event GND-Forum Museen und Sammlungen (Forum on Integrated Authority Data in Museums and Collections) takes place on 6 March 2023. The topic is the use and establishment of controlled vocabularies and authority data.

In addition to the overall statistical survey conducted by the Institut für Museumforschung (Institute of Museum Research), all museums in Germany were asked about their digitisation status. Just under half of the responding museums took part in the special survey. It asked, among other things, which authority data the museums employed for cataloguing their collection objects. In the museum sector, with its many specialised collections, a number of other controlled vocabularies play a major role alongside the Integrated Authority File. A first overview of their use throughout Germany is now available. From it, three important findings stand out:

  1. More than half of the responding museums don’t use authority data; a third is unsure if they do. Only 15% of the institutions reported using authority data and controlled vocabularies. The majority stated that they used no authority data (56%) – or provided no information (29%), which at the very least, indicates uncertainty in dealing with the topic and concept of authority data.
  2. Large museums use authority data more often. Furthermore, the statistics show a clear correlation between the size of the museum, which was established here based on the number of visitors, and the use of authority data.
  3. The Integrated Authority File (GND) is widespread. The statistics team from the Institut für Museumsforschung also specifically asked the institutions about the authority data employed. The GND was mentioned frequently, representing more than half of the authority data applications (56%).

Online Event: GND-Forum Museen und Sammlungen (Integrated Authority Data Forum regarding Museums and Collections)

In keeping with the topic of controlled vocabularies and authority data, the Institut für Museumforschung is organising the online event GND-Forum Museen und Sammlungen with many partner institutions. On 6 March 2023, one of the topics discussed will be how establishing authority data can be advanced so that museums can benefit from documentation over the long term.