I found Mary Elings’ and Gunter Waibel’s “Metadata for All: Descriptive Standards and Metadata Sharing across Libraries, Archives and Museums” a surprisingly interesting article. But I was also perplexed by a pattern I’ve witnessed repeatedly, yet can’t quite seem to understand.
In describing past efforts toward integrated systems, the authors discuss the 1999 Museums and the Online Archive of California (MOAC) endeavor. In the discussion, they note that as an EAD-based standard, “its deep roots in archival practice made EAD an unlikely candidate for museum-wide adoption,” despite the technical capabilities to be successful. I’m wondering if the quote refers to the burden on museums to translate their data from existing standards into EAD formats, or if it refers to the Library/Archives/Museum barriers that frequently cloud and complicate issues relevant to all cultural heritage institutions?
Despite the many commonalities, I frequently see resistance to tools or strategies developed for “the other,” with each group desiring fully customized tools that are tailored to even the most minute and hyper-specific needs of their immediate environment. This behavior shows up constantly, with the potential to be fatal to otherwise really powerful and innovative tools that could have served the entire community, if they had only been given a chance. People seem quick to throw up the “that’s for libraries” or “archivists use that” or “that can’t accommodate museum objects” defense when, really, many of these tools (or hell, even ideas) absolutely could serve everyone’s needs with little or no tweaking at all.
I’m assuming that this territorial attitude stems from very real and important differences, and in some respects, may even have been necessary to ensure the survival of each distinct discipline. Although infrequent, it’s hardly rare to hear of the Archivist/Librarian or the such-and-such Museum and Library, and it’s understandable when there’s an assumption that a specialist can do the job of another specialist. But it’s also counterproductive and, frankly, dishonest to ignore or avoid the overlaps between the three professions. This is especially true when organizations and professions in every sector are forced to collaborate, share, and bridge gaps in order to survive, while LAMs seem willing to dig their heels in and push each other away instead of reaching out and working together to find original and broad solutions to commonly experienced challenges.