Harvesting the Fitzwilliam

This project is now complete. These pages are provided for reference and are no longer updated.



Project Cluster Group



About Harvesting the Fitzwilliam

The JISC-FAIR ‘Harvesting the Fitzwilliam’ project (JISC-HTF) aims to prepare digital records and provide access to their metadata through the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) and Archaeological Data Service (ADS) portals. Harvesting by AHDS and ADS will be implemented using OAI-PMH.

The project’s main objectives are:

  • The preparation of digital records by the Fitzwilliam Museum in order that their metadata can be made available via the Open Archives Initiative – Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), and possibly other protocols;
  • The establishment of an OAI compliant data provider service(s) by the Fitzwilliam Museum for access by AHDS/ADS; and
  • The establishment of an OAI compliant data harvester(s) by the Art and Humanities Data Service and Archaeological Data service as ‘service provider(s)’.


Since 1997 the Fitzwilliam Museum has been working to create, and provide access to, a unified electronic database of object records and images for the collections in the care of its five curatorial departments:

  • antiquities,
  • applied arts,
  • coins and medals,
  • illuminated and music manuscripts, and rare printed books, and
  • paintings, drawings and prints.

Documentation Project (DCF)

In 1999, the Museum was awarded £54,366 by Re:source (The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries) from its Designation Challenge Fund (DCF ). This allowed the appointment of three additional members of staff. The first task was the retrospective accessioning of prints and coins and the creation of complete records for all paintings. DCF funding also supported a part-time computing technician to provide additional technical support.
A further award of £111,405 (2000/2001) allowed continued work and the addition of two more posts: a Documentation Coordinator who drew up the procedural manual for the guidance of all staff involved in the project, and a further data entry assistant. By January 2001 nearly 56,000 records were held electronically, although not yet all on a single database.
A year later, with a further grant of £132,000, in excess of 60,000 records were held centrally on ‘Adlib Museum’ – the chosen software system for the Fitzwilliam Museum’s unified object catalogue. Many of the 60,000 records have associated images. The Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC ), which provides web based access to the Adlib catalogue, was made available via the Museum’s website in February 2002. DCF funding was also used to purchase digital cameras, computers and printers to support the work of the Documentation Project.

University of Cambridge

The University, as the Museum’s constant partner in these projects, has funded the senior post of Computer Manager, the installation of a computer network, Internet access, upgrading of computers and the purchase and maintenance of software.

Museum Building Extension Project

During 2001–2002 approximately 20,000 objects were packed for storage in preparation for a major building extension to the Museum during 2002-2003. Many digital photographs of decanted objects were taken during this period.


In parallel to the documentation work, the Museum is developing 'Pharos', an electronic public information resource offering enhanced interpretation of a selection of key objects. This project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Museums and Galleries Access Fund , complements the Documentation and JISC-FAIR projects. It will offer the user additional information, providing context and creating links between a selection of 300 objects, over time, by themes, iconography, artists, materials and methods. It will encourage exploration of the collections and offer education and enjoyment both remotely and within the Museum when the project is complete in 2004.

JISC FAIR – Harvesting the Fitzwilliam

The Joint Information Steering Committee’s (JISC ) Focus on Access to Information Resources (FAIR ) programme offers the opportunity to further enhance access to the Museum’s electronic object catalogue. Metadata (information about data generally, and information about objects in the Museum context specifically) for 100,000 Museum objects will be made available for ‘harvesting’ by the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) through the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).
In addition, two specific databases – Corpus of Early Mediaeval Coins Finds (EMC) and Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles (SCBI) – will be made available for OAI harvesting by the Archaeological Data Service (ADS ).
The project, in line with the FAIR programmes objectives, will pilot and provide a public access to information about selected Fitzwilliam Museum objects. This information should also be available in conjunction with other collections data held or harvested by the AHDS and ADS.

Contacts, Page modified date: 22Dec04