Topic: Thinking about how to better organise "museums"
Josselin has contributed some thoughtful input on how we present "museums" in another thread:
The museum system in Germany is really tricky, especially in Berlin. In this city, there is a general State museum system ("Staatliche Museen zu Berlin"), with many museum dependencies, as explained here. So the "Staatliche Museen zu Berlin" is just the body which directs them all, and NOT a museum.
The problem is that it has been created as such on the Athenaeum and now holds 258 artworks, which are actually in other museums (Gemaldegalerie, Alte Nationalgalerie...).
I thought it worth starting a side discussion on this.
In truth, the concept we have represented very simply as "museums" on this site is much more complex. First of all, many of our "museums" are not museums in any normal sense. There are a lot of churches in there, historical societies, various other professional associations and companies that own artwork, etc.
Secondly, we don't distinguish between a "museum" as a place, a "collection" as a group of items, and an "owner". These could all be different things. In many European countries especially, the owner might be the nation, the collection might be a national collection or civic collection, and the collection itself might move around among various buildings which are what we normally think of as "museums". For example, the National Trust in the UK is an organisation that owns land and buildings, but also owns artworks. We might think of an artwork belonging to Wightick Manor, but in reality it belongs to the National Trust and is just "housed" there for now. They could decide to move it to a different historic home. So it's *owned* by the National Trust, and *located* at Wightick.
Some collections are even "homeless" in the sense that they don't have a permanent home in a specific set of buildings. The main example that comes to mind is Terra Foundation for American Art. The foundation was created in 1978 and has a lot of major artworks. They had a museum for a few years, but it closed in 1984, and now the artworks owned by the Foundation move around in a bunch of different museums - the Art Institute of Chicago, the Louvre, the Smithsonian, etc.
In the long run, I want us to have a robust way of representing and using "organisations" in a broad sense. As we get into provenance, exhibitions, and more Wikipedia-style history, we'll need to have pages for things like the Royal Academies, professional associations, universities, and so on. Eventually I want people to be able to look up an organisation and see its members and leaders over time, and properties owned by them. So you could see that the National Trust has sites in towns X, Y, and Z, and site X has certain artworks there.
But that's a lot of work! Specifically, I'd have to get our geography (towns, cities) in shape, and build up pages for organisations, and also start representing places or buildings. Plus, it's a bit complex - does the casual visitor care that an artwork is owned by the Terra Foundation, or do they just want to think of it as "belonging" to the Art Institute of Chicago?
So here's my thinking for the near-term approach:
1. On artwork pages, allow the display of "owner" and "location". In many cases, they'll effectively be the same thing, although even single collections located in one place are usually owned by a "foundation" (the organisation) but located in a "museum" (the building). We won't worry about those simple ones - for now we can just say the owner and the location are both a "museum". But at least let the page show both, in case they are different in an important way.
2. In the "museum" pages, add a field to designate the type - museum, foundation, church, etc.. We'll keep that simple for now, but it will give us "hooks" to eventually develop further.
I think this solves 90% of our unusual cases, without being too confusing to uninformed viewers.
What do you think?