Project promotion materials:

Project Homepage:

Data collections can be seen on:

Software is available at:

Software categories:

Integration metadata from various systems which are internal to an institution

Data Repository Solutions

Project Members:

Dr. Nigel Ward (Project Manager,

Prof Jane Hunter Prof. Jane Hunter (Data Source Administrator,

ANDS Contact:

Andrew White (

Project Status:


3D Anthropological and Archeological Data capture of 3D digital models and deposit of metadata to Collection Repository

University of Queensland

Project Description:

Research focus

The UQ Anthropology Museum houses a significant collection of ethnographic material, numbering over 19,000 artefacts and over 6500 photographs. It is the largest university collection of ethnographic material and visual culture in Australia and contains many unique and rare items.

Just under half of the collection comprises things created by, or relating to, Aboriginal Australian culture groups and individuals. An equally large section of the collection is derived from, or concerned with, diverse Pacific peoples. There are also smaller complementary collections from Africa, South-East Asia and China.

The UQ Anthropology Museum houses a wealth of artefacts ranging from household implements to diverse performance paraphernalia and musical instruments. There are water-craft, paintings, clothing, hunting gear, a large quantity of stone tools, including grind stones and axes, and some 1,100 spears and arrows.

The Museum has been actively acquiring photographs since its inception. The photographic collection includes images from the early and mid- twentieth century and includes fieldwork archives and mission photography. The photographic collection is an important resource for, family research, visual culture studies, histories of anthropology, native title research, cultural history and post-colonial studies.

The collection as a whole represents a rich seam of content that reveals significant information about the late nineteenth and twentieth century social and cultural history of Australian Aboriginal and Pacific peoples. Many artefacts demonstrate the entanglement of missionaries, colonial officials and the indigenous inhabitants of a region. While collectors often sought to acquire objects that they thought represented the last genuine aspects of a cultural group, local people themselves creatively adapted their material culture using imported goods. The resulting complexity is a captivating aspect of many objects in the UQ Anthropology Museum and offers many opportunities for different kinds of research.

Project impetus and drivers

The DC4F project aimed to convert the UQ Anthropology Museum’s existing offline catalogue into an online database that:

• is searchable via a Web front-end;
• provides Web access to digital representations of selected artefacts;
• provides Web access to digital representations of documents associated with the collection of artefacts (such as donor correspondence and condition reports); and
• enables descriptions of sub-collections within the museum to be published to both the UQ Collections Registry and Research Data Australia.

Offline data and usability issues

Prior to the start of the project, the museum’s existing catalogue (consisting of metadata describing the individual artefacts) comprised a Microsoft Access database only accessible from within the museum. A few years ago this database stopped accepting new records and the museum staff began recording metadata about new artefacts in two Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. They also continued to update the existing database with new information about existing artefacts.

Usability shortcomings with the database and spreadsheets compromised data quality in the catalogue. For example, staff sometimes recorded information on loan status of artefacts in the “comments” field rather than the “loan” field.

Desire for terminology updates

The museum wished to update its artefact categorisation system, moving away from existing “colonial” terminology in the catalogue. The museum had developed a new categorisation scheme and a mapping from the old to the new scheme, but museum staff did not have the skills or time to automatically translate existing descriptions to the new scheme within the existing catalogue.

Showcasing digitisation efforts

The museum began a digitisation project in 2010 made possible primarily through both external (donor) funding and funding from the UQ Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, the School of Social Science and the Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Initiative. As a result, the museum has gradually built a collection of 2D digital photos and 3D digital representations of artefacts from the museum’s collection, through scanning photographs, digitally photographing artefacts and 3D laser-scanning of selected artefacts.

In 2011 the museum moved its collection to a temporary location to allow refurbishment of the gallery and storage space. The new gallery and storage space did not have room for primary storage of all of the documents associated with the collection. For this reason, the museum staff digitally scanned much of the documentation associated with the collection, such as donation correspondence, provenance documents, and condition reports.

The ANDS data capture project was seen as an opportunity to showcase and share the outcomes of these digitisation efforts.


Online catalogue

The project successfully converted the UQ Anthropology Museum’s existing offline catalogue into an online catalogue containing around 30,000 items accessible via a Web-front end:

This Web interface provides public access to:

• Metadata descriptions of (most) items in the museum’s collection. Some item descriptions are not publically accessible for copyright or cultural reasons.
• Digital photographs of selected items. At the time of writing this report there were 1693 items with digital photographs in the catalogue, but this will grow as the museum’s digitisation efforts continue. Most of these items have multiple digital photographs depicting the item from different angles.
• 3D scans of selected items. There are currently 13 objects with associated 3D high resolution scans.
• Digital representations of documents associated with the collection such as donor correspondence, condition reports and collector biographies.

The Web interface supports navigation of the catalogue via:

• Free text search;
• Free text search with results filtered by category, place, person or whether the item has an associated digital image;
• Browsing of the collection via categories, people or places in the catalogue.

Each item has a display page that summarises publically accessible metadata and provides access to associated digital representations (photos, 3D scans and associated documents). Any categories, places, or people mentioned in the metadata are displayed as web links, supporting further navigation through the catalogue.

Each person in the catalogue has a display page listing the items they created, collected or donated to the museum. It can also contain short biographical description and link to digitised versions of documents about the person.

Places can be browsed via a geographic hierarchy or via a map interface. Each place has a display page showing the items associated with that location.
Rationalisation of classification schemes
The project successfully rationalised and updated the category and geographic classification systems used within the catalogue.

The museum had developed a new categorisation scheme that moved away from existing “colonial” terminology in the pre-existing catalogue. The project implemented an automated mapping method that updated the metadata records for every item in the catalogue to use the new terminology. The old categorisations were not deleted, but are no longer displayed in the public interface.

The project reorganised and simplified the hierarchical geographic classification used in the catalogue, making it more suitable for browsing via a Web interface. This re-organisation is a work in progress, so an interface was created to allow further refinement of the hierarchy by museum staff. The project also automatically added geo-locations to every place in the geographic hierarchy, allowing places to be displayed on a map. An interface was created to allow manual geocoding where the automation fails.

Catalogue management tools

The project created an online interface for museum staff to manage the catalogue and their collection. This interface displays much more metadata about items than the public interface. It allows museum staff to add new items, people and places to the catalogue; edit existing items, people and places in the catalogue; associate items with digital representations; associate digitised documents with items and people in the catalogue; and manage the vocabularies it uses to describe its collection.

Museum staff can manage access to any entity in the system, and generally only make information and digital objects publically accessible after a series of copyright and cultural checks.

The catalogue management interface also supports some of the day-to-day operations of the museum by providing users with information about items in the collection, including:

• Access restrictions associated with an item;
• Storage location of the item;
• Digitised condition reports;
• Digitised records of conservation actions;
• De-accession information;
• Digitised loan agreements.

The museum staff has a vision for how the catalogue management interface could be further enhanced to support more museum operations, including support for:

• Printing item labels for display in the gallery;
• Replacing manual condition reports with online forms;
• Collecting text, audio and video annotations about items in the collection;
• Managing the storage location of items using barcodes.

Unfortunately these requirements could not be met within the timeframe of the project.

Sub-collection descriptions syndicated to Research Data Australia
The catalogue management interface allows museum staff to search for and group items into sub-collections. The system automatically aggregates category and place metadata for the collection based on the items in the collection. Museum staff can then add descriptions to these sub-collections and choose whether to publish them within the catalogue

Data Type:

3D digital models of anthropological, archeological and museum artefact (high resolution, medium resolution and low resolution 3D digital models from a single object)

High Level Software Functionality:

Features: "PD:
a) Automated capture and input of metadata associated with the 3D models;
b) An interface for uploading models to a 3D anthropology/archeology repository with a search, query and display interface;
c) Store descriptions of the different 3D model collections in the UQ collections registry (e.g., indigenous carvings; Polynesian tools; fossils).