Category: Data capture

Museum Survey – Your Views on Museum Data

Arts Council England has commissioned DC Research to carry out a Scoping Study entitled ‘Mapping of Museum Data in England’.  The study aims to increase Arts Council England’s understanding of the current data collection practice in the museum sector.  It includes mapping existing data collection, as well as identifying issues and making recommendations for future data collection.

As part of the scoping study, a survey of museums across England is being carried out to ensure that the perspectives of individual museums and museums services form an important part of the consultation process.  This survey provides you with the opportunity to contribute your views on these issues, and help inform and influence future data collection arrangements.

The survey is available here and the deadline for submitting survey responses is Wednesday 23rd August 2017. 

ACE look forward to receiving your response and would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to contribute to this important study.



AIM high – useful facts from the AIM conference

Last month the MDNW team were at the Association of Independent Museums and Museum Development Network conferences which were both packed full of information. Here’s our pick of practical tips, facts and news we think you’ll find useful – note some important dates coming up.

Business rates
The recent court ruling in which York Museum Trust (YMT) appealed against its business rates valuation could have implications for more than 700 other museums in the UK which are currently valued in the same way, but any appeals have to be made before 1st October 2017.

The ruling was about two issues – how museum buildings are valued, and whether the trading activities of museums should be valued separately.

In setting business rates, there usually isn’t a comparable rent for museum buildings so the Valuation Office chooses which of two methods to apply. The contractors’ method tends to result in higher rates than the receipts and expenditure method; it was the fairness of the method chosen that YMT successfully challenged.

Some museums and galleries may currently get 100% rate relief (comprised of 80% mandatory relief for registered charities and 20% discretionary relief) but the national trend seems to be for the 20% discretionary relief to be withdrawn by local authorities – so museums currently with 100% relief should consider their rateable value now for when or if they have to pay in the future. For further explanation of why, please see here –

For the trading activities judgement, the Valuation Office had to prove that the shop spaces within YMT premises were distinct spaces i.e. able to be separated and closed off from the museum spaces, to be able to regard them as liable for business rates.

This is a very basic explanation of a complex issue, and if museums are to challenge their ruling they must also be aware that a review could result in higher rates as well as lower.

For up to date advice on business rates, AIM members can contact Colin Hunter, a Director of Lambert Smith Hampton, who has been working with AIM and some of its members for the last 10 years. Colin has offered to give any AIM member who contacts him 15 minutes consultation, at no fee with no strings attached, so please call 0113 245 8454 or email for advice. Alternatively, contact Michael Turnpenny, Museum Development Yorkshire,

AIM have also produced a Success Guide on Business Rates –

General data protection regulations
The new general data protection regulations will come into force on 25th May 2018. These govern how organisations collect and use data and will affect all museums, regardless of their size, type of governance or staffed/volunteer-led. Museums should start planning now if they are to get the necessary processes in place for the changes that will take place next May.

The regulations apply to historical data so if you hold, for example, a database of contacts that you use to send marketing material, and you don’t have a record that people on it have actively given their consent to be included on the database, then before May 2018 you will have to retrospectively seek this permission.

AIM are currently producing guidance around data protection to take into account the legislative changes, but to summarise:

  • consent needs to be pro-active, so museums will need opt-in systems of collecting personal data rather than opt-out systems
  • needs to be specific, informed and unambiguous – you must be clear for what purpose you are collecting data
  • your record keeping must be detailed enough to record not just that consent has been given, but also what level of consent, how and when
  • there are different levels of consent required for different levels of activity e.g. if you take an email or postal address to confirm a booking for an event this is considered a necessary function for service delivery, but to add those details to a marketing database requires specific consent for that purpose
  • there is “legitimate interest”, a balancing act between the rights of the individual and the legitimate interest of the organisation, which applies in some circumstances to allow personal data to be used for e.g. marketing purposes

What do museums need in place for May 2018?
Think of it as the data equivalent of a documentation backlog. You don’t need to have completed the work by 2018 but you need a policy and timetable in place and to have started on it:

  • identify a compliance lead within the organisation and raise awareness
  • ensure you are aware of the guidelines which will be issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office
  • carry out a mini audit of personal data you hold and use, and why
  • get policy and privacy statement in place by May 2018
  • have knowledge of what, where, why you collect – get future processes right
  • have started retrospective consent permission

See and for further information. MDNW will also be running a workshop on data protection on 18th October, further details will be announced on our blog shortly.

Big Thank you campaign
The National Lottery will be launching a national “Big Thank You” campaign in December 2017. It will run for four weeks and will cover, week by week, arts, communities, sport and heritage.

As part of the HLF’s work on their new strategic framework they have spoken directly to lottery players, who approve the breadth and depth of projects the HLF fund, and have also shown that there is a desire to use heritage to address societal problems such as isolation, mental health and housing issues. But there can also be a disconnect between lottery players and the projects the HLF has funded; lottery players don’t always see where the funding from the lottery goes to or the value it brings. The National Lottery’s research has shown that a higher awareness of good causes leads to more positive feelings about the lottery by players – and the more they play. A case study at the AIM conference by Gainsborough’s House, in which they gave free entry to lottery players on certain days, which led to an increase in visitor numbers (and especially first time visitors), demonstrated that this link between lottery players and heritage can be strengthened.

The National Lottery are encouraging museums to take part in the campaign in December; museums could, for example, give free entry for lottery players, or a discount in the shop.

To register interest or if you have any questions, email


One-day meeting on crowd-sourcing and data capture

Friday 25th September
09:30 (for a 10:00 start) – 16:00
Kanaris Lecture Theatre, Manchester Museum (kindly sponsored by Manchester Museum)

The Manchester Museum collaborates with the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) will be having a one-day meeting to explore crowd-sourcing and data capture. They are looking forward to seeing you if you are interested in unlocking data held in museum collections, as well as combining that with public engagement.

A series of presentations during the morning will raise awareness of the extent of the UK’s undigitised biological data holdings, outline the importance of these data and discuss why we are looking to crowdsource data capture initiatives to enable mobilisation.

Speed talks will introduce current initiatives, identifying what has worked well, what has failed in the past and how we may ensure quality of the records captured.

The afternoon will set out a strategy for collaboration to address “What needs to happen now?”

Three workshops will look at:
●        Quality – Ensuring quality from crowdsource data capture projects
●        Engagement – How do we increase the number of people involved
●        Efficiency – Making citizen data capture more efficient (What’s holding us back?)

Speakers include:
●        Tom Humphrey, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
●        Nick Isaac, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
●        Dave Martin, Atlas of Living Australia
●        Henry McGhie, Manchester Museum
●        Rachel Stroud, NBN Secretariat
●        Steve Whitbread, Northamptonshire Biological Records Centre

If you would like to attend the Summit, please RSVP by email (no later than 21st September) to the NBN Secretariat at:

You can also contact the NBN  at the same email address with any queries about the event.

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is the process of engaging a group or ‘crowd’ of people, usually online to carry out a shared task.  In this instance we are referring to ‘outsourcing’ the digitisation of biological records to people across the UK and beyond.   Crowdsourcing websites are designed to be intuitive for anyone to use, regardless of their level of expertise and the process can be tightly controlled to ensure the satisfaction of all the contributors and the quality of the resulting datasets.

The extent of our undigitised data holdings

Across the UK, there are millions of biological records held  in recording cards, field notebooks, diaries, photographs, museum specimens, survey forms, maps and assorted other forms.  These formats are often unavailable, serving little purpose and are little valued as a result.    Yet they have huge potential as a resource for nature conservation, environmental decision making, education and research.

Digitisiation will not only preserve these records of the past – for which there will never be more – but enable them to be put to use in combination with other data and give access to our rich heritage of natural history, local and nationally.

Why look to crowdsourcing for data capture?

One of the major obstacles to digitisation has been the resources required.    Crowdsourcing is well recognised as an effective mechanism for attracting and facilitating voluntary support and has been successfully used to digitised data across the globe, as highlighted by initiatives such as: From the Page; Notes from Nature; Herbaria@Home; The Field Book Project; Smithsonian Transcript Project; and the Atlas of Living Australia’s DigiVol.
Selecting the right approach to suit volunteers and those seeking their help could well play a major part in realising the potential of all those historical observations.

More information and booking details can be found at: