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Joining MDS

Does it cost anything to share data with MDS?

No. It is free. By keeping costs low and bringing huge benefits to a wide range of users, our long-term business model aims to keep the core MDS service free to all collections who share data, and free to all but the most intensive users of that data. (See also Using data FAQs.)

Does a museum need to be Accredited to be part of MDS?

No. As well as Accredited museums we’re open to other museum-like collections held for public benefit, particularly art collections that are already Art UK participating collections or would like to be. See Who can share data with MDS? for more guidance and please feel free to contact us about your organisation’s eligibility if you have any questions.

We already have an online catalogue. Why do we need MDS?

Even if your museum has its own online collection database, MDS can help you reach people who might not otherwise find their way to your website. So it’s worth sharing your data with us as well. As you’ll know from your own experience researching goods or services online, it’s quicker and easier to use sites that bring together relevant information from many sources.


How do we upload images?

Sorry, you can’t. By design, the core MDS repository will not hold any image files or other media assets such as audio or video files. If the object records you share with us include the locations of images stored elsewhere online, and links to them, users should be able to see those images if they have permission to do so.

If you are an Art UK participating collection, you will upload images directly to them using separate tools that are being built to work seamlessly with MDS.

Why don’t you provide storage for images and other media?

We’re aware that our no-images policy does not answer the need for sustainable and affordable cloud storage for museum images and other media, with proactive digital preservation measures, but this is a bigger problem than we alone can take on.

One reason is cost. Storing and retrieving text records – even 80 million and more – is within the kind of budget we think we and our funders can sustain over the long-term. But add hi-res images or other media and the costs would quickly spiral.

We continue to lobby for sector-wide solutions as part of a national digital preservation strategy, and will use evidence of need from MDS contributors to help make that case.


How do we update the data we share with you and how often?

It will be up to each museum how often it refreshes data it shares with us. Where we’re taking data from a large museum via an API, it might be daily. For a small museum with a relatively static database, it might only be once or twice a year. If your database changes often, and you are using us as a backup of last resort, you’ll want to refresh the data you share with us more frequently.

If you sent us an export file the first time you shared data with us, you just need to repeat the process for each update. We’ll encourage you to make notes the first time, so hopefully the second and subsequent exports will be quick and easy, but our team can remind you if you have any problems. As before, you upload the latest export file directly and securely via your MDS account dashboard.

Do we need to clean up our data?

No. We’ll take your data as it is. As we’re not a publishing platform aimed at the general public, your records don’t have to be scrubbed up to any particular format or standard.

We know that the data out there is problematic. It’s often sketchy, inconsistent, inaccurate, and shot through with colonial-era language. But by opening up this messy legacy, a whole world of collaborators can bring new techniques and perspectives to bear on data challenges that are beyond museums alone to solve. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Is there a limit to the number of records that can be sent at once?

No. We’ve tested our system with some pretty big national and university museum collections, so are confident we can cope with even the largest collections databases out there.

If you have other questions please email them to support(at), replacing (at) with @.

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