The Bernisches Historisches Museum is currently in the middle of a project of the century - in the truest sense of the word.
For the first time in its more than 100-year history, the Bernisches Historisches Museum (BHM) is carrying out a general inventory under the project title "Sammlungserschliessung und -bereinigung". Sebastian Herzberg, project manager for collection-development and -cleaning, is responsible for the implementation. Georg Pulver, Head of Administration at BHM, is responsible for software procurement and introduction. We sat down with the two of them to find out more about the details of the project, in the realization of which our software solution for museums - MuseumPlus - plays a central role.
An ambitious plan
After several years of preparation and the approval of a loan of CHF 5.1 million from the foundation's sponsors, the project started at the end of 2016 with the introduction of the new MuseumPlus software solution used throughout the entire museum.
Previously, the BHM worked with several separate object and restoration databases according to the division of the museum into historical, numismatic, archaeological and ethnological collections. The way in which objects were recorded differed greatly in some cases and the databases did not offer any interfaces among themselves, which made cross-collection work difficult.
As a first step, all databases were migrated to MuseumPlus. Data records were standardized and cleaned up so that they could be transferred to the new collection database without substantial loss of information. Data that could not be transferred into the new system in a structured manner was stored in a container field, where it can be accessed later during processing.
The introduction of MuseumPlus also enabled a major step forward in the methodology of data collection and processing. Thanks to the browser or HTML version used, the collection database can also be accessed with mobile devices to document objects directly at their location.
After merging and cleansing the existing data records, the current project phase for the BHM is to compare the status quo with the desired status. During a three-year general inventory, around 500,000 objects at five locations are recorded in MuseumPlus, compared with existing data and updated where necessary. The inventory is carried out by a dedicated team of 14 employees.
If you do the calculation, you get an average of 8:40 minutes per object - a rather sporty target that is quite realistic thanks to the location-independent MuseumPlus, which is used on nine mobile recording stations. In the first two months of the general inventory, around 30,000 objects have already been monitored and recorded.
Mobile recording stations
In order to minimise disruption to museum operations during the general inventory, the object locations of the BHM were divided into eight complexes with 90 spatial units, which are now processed in sections. Both classic stationary workstations (e.g. for numismatic collection) and mobile workstations are used to record the objects.
Since there was no suitable standard solution on the market for such recording stations on wheels, the BHM built it itself. The recording team affectionately calls the registration stations "Regi-Mobile" and their dimensions are oriented to the minimum aisle width of all depot rooms. Employees can move from unit to unit and collect data directly at the object locations, take photos of objects, label them and carry out minor packaging work.
An automatically generated QR code is assigned to each object entered in MuseumPlus. The code is then printed via the TSC label printer (Neuhaus AG) and can be attached directly to the object.
MuseumPlus, which can be accessed via a browser, is used at all recording stations. Collected data records can thus always be accessed live by all BHM employees, which enables all persons involved in the project to work together quickly and smoothly. For example, the project manager can have an automated report of all data records generated daily, and curators can edit current pending lists at any time.
To ensure that all information relevant to the general inventory can be entered easily and efficiently, a special input screen has been created in MuseumPlus. For example, the object location is copied from the previous data record and does not have to be entered again each time objects are entered at the same location. With around 500,000 properties, such seemingly small increases in efficiency mean significant time (and thus financial) savings.
When designing the mask, attention was also paid to fast navigation using the keyboard and flat direct input in fields without having to go through sub-masks.
As part of the general inventory, five pieces of information are collected for each object: Inventory number, object description, location, identification photo and, if necessary, a note to the curator on the condition of the object or on problems with object identification.
The object data migrated from the previous databases can be searched and updated by employees in MuseumPlus. A new entry can be created in MuseumPlus directly at the object location for objects that have not been entered.
Building on the general inventory, the phase of minimum indexing will soon begin. The aim is to achieve a uniform minimum stock of indexing information throughout the entire collection. At the same time, certain collections are checked for possible de-cessioning, and in the event of problematic conditions of conservation, emergency conservation is carried out. The overall project is scheduled for completion in early 2022.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sebastian Herzberg (pictured) and Georg Pulver from BHM for the exciting insight into their daily work and wish them continued success with the project.
The Bernisches Historisches Museum is the second largest historical museum in Switzerland. It has extensive collections on prehistory and early history in the Canton of Berne, on the history of the city and the Canton of Berne, and an important ethnographic collection.
MuseumPlus from zetcom supports the complex needs of museums. Our comprehensive, flexible standard application provides real-time museum management and documents every type of collection and all associated workflows.
As with BHM, MuseumPlus can be individually tailored to your institution and, if necessary, expanded at any time and adapted to the current needs in practice.