Executive Director, Art Museum Image Consortium
December 23, 1998
the PDF version of this file
Contents 1. Introduction
1.1 Understanding Users
1.2 Image User Studies in Higher Education
Groups of AMICO Users
2.2 Art Historians and Image Users
2.3 Image Collection Managers
2.4 Analysis and Reporting
Future Use of Research Results
I: AMICO Members
Appendix II: AMICO University
Appendix III: AMICO Users and Uses Committee
Appendix IV: Moderatorās Guide for Focus Groups
access to cultural heritage information over the web has become a shared
goal for many cultural heritage organizations. But the organizational
and economic infrastructure to support and enhance access to in-depth
multimedia documentation about works of art in museum collections has
kept pace neither with the technological capability nor with user demand
for access to multimedia museum documentation. North American Museums
have joined together to form the Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO)
to address these issues.
March and September 1997, staff of museums in Canada and the United
States engaged in planning a consortium that would enable them, collectively,
to create a digital art library for educational use. Twenty-three museums
(of the 30 in the planning process) formed AMICO in October of 1997.
AMICO members pay the costs of capturing the images and data as well
as clearing the rights, and contribute a membership fee to the consortium
that makes the library available for educational use. The
twenty-three museum directors who became founding members of the AMICO
Board did so because they felt that education was a significant part
of their mission. They believed that working together within the consortium
they could leverage their expertise and their investments in the creation
of digital documentation of their collections. AMICO now has twenty-six
members in North America and is discussing membership actively with
other institutions in the US and abroad. Full details about AMICO and
its activities can be found on our web site at http://www.amico.org
first year of operations, AMICO has assembled a testbed library of almost
20,000 images, developed a distribution partnership with the Research
Libraries Group (RLG) to delivery The AMICO Library to higher education,
launched a testbed delivery research project involving 16 university
campuses, and partnered in a successful grant from the Institute of
Library and Museum Services (IMLS) ö led by Indiana University/Purdue
University Indianapolis ö to deliver The AMICO Library to K-12 and Public
Library Users in the Indianapolis Metropolitan area.
Each of these activities tackles some of the challenges facing AMICO
as we create a self-supporting distribution system for digital cultural
heritage documentation. But these projects address primarily technological
and organizational issues. Much still remains to be learned about the
needs and expectations of users of The AMICO Library.
considerable anecdotal evidence and a few systematic studies, we still
know very little about how scholars use images, and less about who
uses digital images on campuses and what uses they make of them."
We know little about what users identify as desirable in the technical
characteristics of images themselves, their associated documentation,
or the delivery systems that support their use. Nor do we know how
these various inter-related factors contribute to effective use of
image data. We lack cross-institutional analysis of the use of the
same dataset and delivery system, and we are without longitudinal
studies comparing more than a single yearās usage.
members of AMICO considered the study of user needs, requirements
and expectations critical to the successful development and deployment
of a system to provide digital art documentation to universities.
They designed a system to deliver images to different groups of educational
users using different non-profit and governmental "distributors".
In this way AMICO hoped to facilitate input from each community to
a known service provider, and to maximize the likelihood that user
requirements would be met in the design of interfaces and tools for
use with AMICO. As a first step, AMICO members enlisted universities
and the major provider of scholarly information to research universities(RLG);
we designed the "University Testbed Project" to build our
understanding of this sectorās needs.
October 1997, AMICO issued an invitation to universities worldwide
to join in the AMICO University Testbed. Participants acquired The AMICO Library a year early in order to help answer a number of questions
keyed to a published set of Research Objectives (available online
These included conducting studies of users and uses. Of the universities
that applied, 18 were selected to participate in the project (see
Appendix II for a List of Participants. Highlights of each AMICO University
Testbed Project are available at http://www.amico.org/univ/univtestbed/u.highlights.html).
Beginning in the fall of 1998, participating universities have received
access to The AMICO Library through the Research Libraries Group (RLG)
and have begun to conduct research on its use. Their projects are
ongoing on individual campuses, and will be reported at the close
of the 1998/99 academic year.
Image User Studies in Higher Education
Art Museum Image Consortium proposes to build upon the institutionally-based
research during the University Testbed Project, with a series of coordinated
activities designed to develop a shared understanding of the needs
of users and issues in the uses of digital images in the arts and
humanities. We will analyze and document users and uses of The AMICO Library during the second semester of the academic year 1998/9 (beginning
January 1999 through June 1999. AMICO-let activities will supplement
and enhance the single campus studies, gathering inter-institutional
focus of this proposal is two in-depth focus groups to be conducted
with academic users and image managers to identify their anticipated
needs and expected requirements. The overall project will be coordinated
by AMICOās staff: Jennifer Trant, Executive Director, and David Bearman,
Director of Strategy and Research, Laura Shelley, Member/Client Services
Coordinator, and Brad Dietrich, Technical Coordinator. The Focus Groups
will be led by Jennifer Trant and David Bearman (Curriculum Vitae
appended). Trant and Bearman are experienced group leaders with a
wide range of experience in planning, consensus building and group
facilitation. As examples, Trant ran the series of disciplinary review
meetings for the Art Information Task Forceās Categories for the
Description of Works of Art. Bearman facilitated a series of meetings
of Museum Directors, designed to provide input into the strategic
planning of the Canadian Heritage Information Network. Together, they
facilitated the planning of the Art Museum Image Consortium.
hand contact with users of The AMICO Library is invaluable for building
our understanding of their needs and expectations. In February-March
1998, staff of AMICO member institutions and AMICO staff attended the
College Art Association (CAA) and Visual Resources Association (VRA)
meetings in Toronto and Philadelphia and gleaned valuable informal insights
from attendees. We realized then that AMICO could benefit substantially
from a more systematic collection of user requirements and desires through
focus groups of academic users.
plans to hold two user group meetings, one of instructors and one of
visual resource curators, in conjunction with the College Art Association
(CAA) and Visual Resources Association (VRA) annual meetings in Los
Angeles, in February 1999. Historically we have found differing priorities
and requirements from those who are tasked with maintaining collections
of visual resources for use on academic campuses and those who use these
resources in their teaching and study. As The AMICO Library will have
to meet both these requirements, we propose two separate groups, to
allow these needs to be probed in depth.
groups research provides the best method for obtaining in-depth, comparable,
qualitative data from a target population. Because the participants
are expecting to spend a substantial amount of time many more questions
can be asked and much more common context can be established than
is the case in traditional survey research. Focus groups often provide
far more information than surveys, and can be used to complement them.
Because the group is together, individuals can all answer questions
first in the way that they would if they were alone, and then through
discussion within the group, move towards common ranking or consensus
in their responses, or identify areas of real differences of opinion
when these are present. As a consequence, first impressions and biases
can be captured, but final opinions can also be obtained which are
more carefully considered and dependable. Because participants can
observe various options closely, and then rank them, they can provide
valuable feedback about choices that are being considered.
focus groups in this study will be facilitated by Jennifer Trant,
David Bearman; selected members of the AMICO Users and Uses Committee
(listed in Appendix III) will be present as recorders. The User and
Uses Committee as a whole will be involved in advance in finalizing
the research questions and Moderatorsā Guide (the latest draft of
which is attached as Appendix IV).
user group will meet for a three hour session. They would receive
a brief introduction to The AMICO Library, and then would be asked
to address specific questions which are correlated with concrete decisions
facing AMICO members in the evolution of The AMICO Library. Further
questions will be based on those asked of the MESL Focus Groups.
will be videotaped. Following each session, video tapes would be transcribed.
These transcripts, along with preliminary insights from the MANAGEMENT
and Users and Uses Committee Representatives would be circulated to
the full AMICO User and Uses Committee. A full day meeting of the
Committee will be held in conjunction with the American Association
of Museums annual meeting, to analyze the result and determine their
implications for the way The AMICO Library is compiled, edited and
delivered in 1999/2000 and beyond.
day would be planned so that one focus group met in the morning, and
the second in the afternoon. Lunch would be served to the morning
group to enable some personal networking time and follow on discussion.
Refreshments will be served to the afternoon group to encourage the
same. In a follow-up exercise, the entire group would participate
in a Delphi ranking exercise, based on a section of the MESL Instructor
Survey. Participants would be asked to rank a set of functions and
content that could be included in a future image database.
Art Historians and Image Users
to the CAA focus group would be members of the art history faculty
of twelve universities - six with experience of the AMICO Testbed
Library and six without. (Each University Testbed participant will
be asked to identify a pool of possible participants from outside
the testbed.) The three hour session would be divided into six segments
of approximately half an hour each.
A. Introduction to AMICO and The AMICO Library (what is it, isn't
questions: What would make AMICO Library most valuable to the faculty?
B. Content (Collections Development and Documentation)
C. Rights (How they can best be administered)
D. Delivery Service (With an emphasis on uses by faculty)
E. Tools (Imagining and ranking future features)
F. Experiences and Expectations, Opportunities and Barriers
Image Collection Managers
to the VRA focus group would be visual resource curators from twelve
different universities. As with the art historians, they would be
drawn half from institutions with access to The AMICO Library and
half from institutions without. (Each University Testbed participant
will be asked to identify a pool of possible participants from outside
the testbed.) The Visual Resources focus group will also be divided
into roughly thirty minute segments, but will address a slightly different
set of issues:
1) Introduction to AMICO and The AMICO Library (what is it, isn't
questions: What would make AMICO Library most valuable to Visual
Curators and their clientele?
2) Content (Collections Development and Documentation)
3) Rights (How they can best be administered?)
4) Delivery Service (and integration into current resources)
5) Tools ( Imagining and ranking future features)
6) Experiences and Expectations, Opportunities and Barriers
details of the questions to be asked and issues to be explored can
be found in Appendix IV, the Moderatorsā Guide.
Analysis and Reporting
tapes of the focus groups will be transcribed, coded and analyzed,
and the individual surveys coded and tabulated. The two will then
be compared and analyzed in order to draw out critical factors that
will influence the development of The AMICO Library. These results
will also be compared to those of the MESL Evaluation projects mentioned.
AMICO Users and Uses Committee will hold a one-day meeting, in association
with the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting) to review
a preliminary analysis of the results. This group will discuss preliminary
conclusions, and will provide direction for further analysis of the
transcripts and survey responses.
it is not traditional to do so, the results of these focus groups
will be reported (all data will be anonymized) both to AMICO Members
and University Testbed Participants, and to the general community.
As interest in these issues is high, the moderators of the focus groups
will use the results to author an article on requirements and desires
for the development of digital art libraries. We hope that the communication
of the results will aid others making decisions similar to those of
understanding of the users and uses of networked museum multimedia documentation
is critical. Not knowing the requirements and desires of our educational
users, museums are making expensive "shots in the dark" as
they digitize and distribute information about their collections. AMICO
will use its University Testbed Project to lay concrete groundwork for
future activities. By identifying the priorities of one of our prime
user populations ö the academic and research community ö we will be
able to schedule the developments and enhancements of The AMICO Library
and the its distribution systems, to meet their needs.
user data will also be of great help to AMICO as it develops the Technical
Advisory Service requested by its members. We cannot develop digitization
guidelines and best practices in a vacuum. Our use of technology, and
our distribution of information must be based on real requirements if
our investments are to be cost effective. AMICO will use the results
of these user studies to inform its future project: the definition of
Best Practices for Museum Digital Documentation and Image Digitization.
Many museums are crying out for guidance in the digital capture of images
and in the conversion of textual documents. AMICO can help them to make
appropriate choices, based on an established body of practice and a
strong knowledge of the functions and purposes that the art museum community
wishes to fulfill with its digital multimedia documentation. The focus
group study outlined in this proposal is one of several research efforts
that will provide needed background information to ensure that museum
digital documentation is captured and delivered in manners suited to
the needs and desires of educational users, helping AMICO to fulfill
its mission of enabling educational use of museum multimedia.
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