The U of A Museum collections are now more accessible than ever.
From the first computer on campus to a meteorite that landed near Fayetteville in 1934, the museum houses a very diverse collection of more than 7.5 million objects from the fields of archaeology, history, ethnology, geology and zoology.
A new online resource will feature these collections.
Museum staff and volunteers have set up an online museum database that is open to the public. The database is hosted by Omeka, a platform for sharing digital collections and creating media-rich online exhibitions.
“The database will change the way people explore and use the collections,” said Laurel Lamb, curator and project leader. “Until recently, there was only one internal database. The staff acted as intermediaries between researchers and this database. While the staff will continue to support researchers as always, making these search tools available in the hands of the public will also expand and improve their usefulness.”
The new database is at the heart of supporting the Museum’s work dedicated to preserving and sharing the diverse cultural and natural histories of the earth, including for Arkansans and all, through active research, education and outreach. When building the database, Lamb said the term “all” was a concern to her.
“Whether you’re browsing highlights of the museum out of curiosity or narrowing down specific objects for a research project, it’s designed for a wide variety of purposes and users,” said Lamb.
The U of A campus community is especially encouraged to access this resource. From its early beginnings as a teaching collection in the 1870s, the museum has long hosted U of A students and faculty. Within the first month of the fall semester, three separate art history classes have already visited the collections to study cultural materials from around the world. Providing digital access to the objects via the database will enhance such experiences.
The resource will also encourage new users. For example, students can participate in unique and unexpected research experiences, while faculty members can find inspiration for their teaching through tangible materials that enhance learning.
According to Lamb, two students have already integrated the database into projects.
Ruth Walters, a data science freshman major, began volunteering at the museum over the summer. She helped review and revise database entries. Over time, she noticed that the museum has an important collection of cone snails. Refining her focus on these pattern entries, she created an accompanying digital exhibition of photographs that reference specific database entries.
“In bringing the University of Arkansas collection into a virtual environment, our goal is to test the limits of what constitutes a museum exhibit — and give those who can’t come to a museum the opportunity to do so through an exhibit.” ‘go,'” said Ernest Gann, president of the museum’s advisory board, in reference to upcoming exhibits to be featured at the new resource. “I believe that Omeka is a wonderful resource to help us achieve this and realize the museum’s vision.”
History major Garrett Sherman is currently developing another project — an interactive timeline that places certain Roman archaeological materials in the collections in context to larger historical events that took place around them. Each featured item will link directly to its database entries for those who wish to learn more.
“My experience with Omeka has taught me a lot,” Sherman said. “The eventual integration of Omeka into my timeline project will make for a deeper and more educational experience when viewing and accessing the project.”
David McNabb, acting assistant dean of Fulbright College, commended the museum staff and volunteers for their work in making this resource available to the university and the state.
“This group has worked hard for months to make this resource accessible, public and user-friendly – and their work will transform the way we explore artifacts and objects from the University of Arkansas’ impressive history of innovation, research and service. said McNabb. “I’m excited to see how our students, teachers and researchers are utilizing this incredible new resource.”
With such an extensive collection in the museum, there are still many unpublished entries. However, new ones are added every week with the goal of making the entire collection searchable for everyone.
Click here to visit this exciting new resource here.
To learn more and to speak with museum staff, contact Laurel Lamb at [email protected] / 479-575-4370.
About the University of Arkansas Museum: The University of Arkansas Museum is an administrative unit of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. University faculty may request loans for their classes or bring their classes with them for a visit. Samples and associated documentation are available for comparison and research purposes from faculty, qualifying students, and visiting scholars. The museum also fulfills its public service and outreach mission through community engagement programs and loans to other institutions for exhibits. To visit the collections, an appointment with the museum staff is required. Find out more on the museum’s website.