Museum’s missions have always included (if not emphasized) the importance of collections, collecting, and researching those collections. It’s not what most of the general public thinks of when they visit a museum, because it’s the raw stuff, it’s not meant for them.
We’ve talked a lot about the accessibility of museums, what it means, and what forms it takes. One that we haven’t talked about yet is the accessibility of collections to researchers. Increasingly, museums (at least those that can afford it) are taking their collections databases, and making them public, or at least semi-public. Most of the time it’s a chore to find the link, if not deeply hidden, at least not completely obvious.
What’s the benefit of that? Are they intentionally trying to hide the link to their collections online? Or are they just not prioritizing it? How accessible is it, if you can’t find the link?
So here are a couple museums. I challenge you to find the collections, specifically the database where you can actually look at or search for objects. To be fair, you should do it from their actual home page, not by googling “Museum name + collections” – because that only works if you already know they have collections online.
The Autry – The Autry National Museum of the American West
The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology – at the University of Michigan
San Francisco MoMA – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art