ConservationSpace - Frequently Asked Questions

If you cannot find an answer on this page, please feel free to direct specific questions to this email address: ​dcl@nga.gov​

What is ConservationSpace?​

ConservationSpace has been developed as a collaborative project to create an open-source software application to address the conservation community's need to have a document management system designed specifically for conservators.  The project has been generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.​

Who is participating in the initial development and implementation process to introduce ConservationSpace to the community of potential users?

The National Gallery of Art serves as the lead institution for contracting and overseeing development and is collaborating with five other partner institutions: the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Denmark's Statens Museum for Kunst, Yale University. The Metropolitan Museum of Art made significant contributions to the project when they were participants during the first two development cycles.

Who is currently using ConservationSpace?

As of July 2018, ConservationSpace is being used by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and the Courtauld Institute of Art.  The Statens Museum for Kunst is completing its configuration of the software and the Denver Art Museum, Yale (both the art museum and library) and Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields are preparing to use the software.  A number of institutions have expressed interest and are discussing the implementation process with the software developer.

 

A number of museum and libraries have expressed interest in the software.  As they agree to implement the system and start use of ConservationSpace, this list will be updated.  We encourage those interested in the software to contact our project team at the National Gallery of Art, Washington at dcl@nga.gov  and to network with colleagues at institutions who are already adopting the software to ask questions of to current end users.

ConservationSpace gets better over time when more documents are added to it.  Imagine a search for documents in ConservationSpace where a particular surface coating treatment was used. The system will generate a list of all the cultural objects in your collection that mentions that surface coating anywhere in the text of any reports in the system.

What document writing functionality will be available in ConservationSpace?

ConservationSpace allows users to employ templates to write documents that encompass all of the activities conducted by conservators.  Users can also start with a blank page and craft a document without the aid of a template.  All information is safely stored in cloud-based storage that is expandable to meet users needs. Users may also create documents in ConservationSpace in their favorite word processing programs and store them in the software.  ConservationSpace will focus on providing users with the ability to create or use preexisting templates to write examination (single object), examination or survey (multiple objects), treatment (single object), treatment (multiple objects), and other documents. 

What other features are available in ConservationSpace?

The system has powerful search tools to provide quick and accurate access to information for users. The software also incorporates Mirador, an open source tool that provides ConservationSpace with an image annotation module to overlay, compare and zoom in on high-quality images.  Modules for task/project management are built into the system.  A future release will allow users to organize conservation documentation activities associated with exhibitions.    

What makes ConservationSpace so special?

ConservationSpace uses open-source software to take advantage of some of the most sophisticated programming currently available.  To describe it simply, ConservationSpace creates records that are attached to additional descriptive data. This combination of incorporating word processing with a robust database enhances documents allowing users to create controlled vocabulary terms that become associated with a document entered into the system.  ConservationSpace is cultural object centered.  Everything created or uploaded into the system must relate to a specific cultural object stored in ConservationSpace. This relationships allows users to see everything that has been written and stored about a cultural object.  Documents in native word processing, spreadsheet and PDF formats can be stored about a cultural object in the system.

What are some of the added benefits of ConservationSpace?

If a user chooses to scan legacy records, these documents are incorporated into ConservationSpace and linked to a cultural object.  This provides long-term protection of documents related to works of art because the information in the system is stored and backed up externally. Powerful symantic search capabilities allow system users to discover relationships between documents that could not be discovered when attempting to search word processing files or images stored on a standard computer disk drive.

Will ConservationSpace be available long-term or is this just an experiment to create a proof of concept?

A tremendous effort has been put into addressing the sustainability of ConservationSpace.  It was initiated with a group of museums to obtain both, a critical mass of users and to elicit feedback that went into designing the software.  A critical effort in the design of the software is focused on creating configuration tools that will significantly lower the cost for initiating the use of ConservationSpace and for making future changes that can be accomplished by administrative end users.  A version of the software called CORE ConservationSpace streamlines the process of installing the system for new users.  Finally, the developer that was awarded the contracts for creating ConservationSpace is committed to supporting the ongoing development and maintenance of the system with the aid of the ConservationSpace governance committee.

ConservationSpace is supposed to be free of charge because it was developed through a grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for use by the conservation community.  Is this true?

All of the development work done on ConservationSpace from the beginning of the start of the project in 2012 to the projected end date in April 2019 that concludes the formal development effort under the terms of the grant will be available for free in one of the open source program repositories. Institutions or individuals may download ConservationSpace and use it with no fees charged.  However, those who download the free version must have the technical ability to install and maintain the system themselves. 

 

The Sirma Group who developed the system provides an alternative.  The version hosted by the Sirma Group is cloud-based and maintenance of the system, help desk support, updates and access to the governance and user community is provided for fees based on the number of users. The software as a service model will allow a number of individual conservators and museums who do not have IT support to be able to use ConservationSpace. 

Will ConservationSpace only work with the TMS collection management system (CMS)?​

ConservationSpace will work with a variety of collection management systems, including TMS. As part of the development process, the system will be tested and integrated with each of the partners’ collection management systems – TMS, CollectionSpace, Voyager (library), and KE Emu.  The system comes with built-in features that facilitate mapping nearly any system to communicate with ConservationSpace.

Can I customize my forms and reports in ConservationSpace?

ConservationSpace is designed and being built with a maximum degree of flexibility to allow conservators to adapt forms, reports, and workflow tools to suit their context and working methods.  This flexibility is a hallmark of the project and a high priority for the project partners who understand the differences that exist between conservation specialties, institutional settings, and individual conservator’s approached to documentation. 

Is ConservationSpace intended to be used only by conservators working in large institutions?

Not at all.  The software can be used by one person, a small group of conservators or multiple people in large institutions. The software is web-based so users are accessing a version of the software customized to their specifications that resides on in the cloud.  

Will I be able to use ConservationSpace on a mobile device?​

Initial releases of ConservationSpace will focus on desktop computing and laptop use. As long as a user has Internet access, the system can be used in a mobile way.  The project team and its software developer are aware of a conservator’s need to be able to use ConservationSpace when not connected to the Internet.  The feasibility of including functionality that allows a conservator to work “off-line” at a remote location and upon returning, to upload data intended to be incorporated into a cultural object record in the system have been explored.  At this time, off-line functionality will be considered for a future release by the ConservationSpace governance committee.

What advantages will ConservationSpace offer over other documentation systems?

ConservationSpace offers cloud-based records management that incorporates semantic technology to facilitate data cataloging and retrieval.  As the semantic model is upgraded and expanded, users will benefit from the links that are revealed, in what at first observation might appear to be unrelated entities.  ConservationSpace has not be created as a standard relational database mode. This is an important difference between ConservationSpace and other document management system.  The development team is counting on conservators to adopt the system and experience the benefits that a semantic model possesses above and beyond a relational database.  Further, ConservationSpace has partnered with the IIIF to provide Mirador imaging for users. The system incorporates workflow and project management features. The software was designed by direct input of a wide variety of conservation professionals who created the specification to develop software that they would be happy to use to conduct their daily work.

When will ConservationSpace be available?​

ConservationSpace is currently available. A comprehensive support and pricing structure to address the project's sustainability mandate.  Interested parties should direct questions about obtaining ConservationSpace by emailing dcl@nga.gov to start the process.  The development team will be happy to address your questions and to provide you with the pricing structure document.

How can I learn more about the project and stay informed of its progress?

This website contains the latest information about the project from the viewpoint of the project development team at the National Gallery of Art, Washington and reflects the contribution of the partner institutions as well.

 

The Sirma Group also maintains a website related to a modular product they are marketing under the name "MuseumSpace."  It combines the ConservationSpace module with CurationSpace (a module for curatorial records and related documents) and ExhibitionSpace (a module for organizing exhibitions)  Visit them at https://museumspace.com/ to obtain more information.

 

Please note that the Google Group is not frequently updated and no longer provides a weekly progress report on the development of features in ConservationSpace. 

 

If you wish to receive the emails sent to the partner institutions and other interested individuals about the progress of development and notes on features and improvements, make a request to join the Google Group so that you can obtain detailed updates and related information about the ConservationSpace project.

 
Direct specific questions to the email address: dcl@nga.gov  for the latest information on the state of software development and potential adoption of ConservationSpace.