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Here’s how it works.

1. Express interest in sharing data with MDS

Use the form on this site to get in touch and express interest in sharing your data with MDS. This does not commit you to anything. Our team will respond and take you through the next steps.

2. Think about who can see your collections data now and how you want it to be accessed in future

Your starting point here should be your institution’s current policy and practice. Who can see which bits of your collections data? Are some fields (eg valuations) confidential, even to some staff and volunteers? Which fields might contain personal data protected in law? Do you already publish some fields on your own website or share them with third-parties such as Art UK?

If you are an Accredited museum, you have probably thought about these issues already. If not, the collection management standard Spectrum has relevant policy questions to prompt discussion within your institution.

Either way, you might find it useful to sign up to one of our online training sessions Getting ready for MDS. They are free and will help you get ready for the next step.

3. Decide your data-sharing preferences

A great strength of MDS is there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to sharing data. When you’ve had a chance to think about the options in the previous step, we’ll ask you to fill in a brief online form, with questions covering:

  • how much data you want to share: all fields/selected fields
  • who can see the data you will share: all fields open to anyone/some fields restricted/all fields restricted
  • whether there is personal information in the data you will share: none/some in specific fields
  • how the data you share can be used by others: one of the Creative Commons licences/another licensing option
  • how you will get your data into MDS: generate and upload an export file (of any file type)/via an API (if you don’t know what that is, you probably don’t have one)
  • if applicable, whether you will need our help with your first data export

At this stage, we’ll also ask you to review, or provide, some basic information about your institution and collections (levels one and two of our data hierarchy). We will also ask you to confirm the person authorised to act as our main point of contact with your institution and, if different, the person authorised to sign agreements on its behalf.

4. Data processing agreement (if applicable)

If you are sure the data you plan to send us will not contain any legally-protected personal information (perhaps because you are only sharing fields already published on your own website), this step can be omitted.

Otherwise, at this point we will sign a data processing agreement with your institution, covering any personal information that might be contained the collections data you will initially deposit with us at step 6. This will give us the legal authorisation to work with any deposited personal information through steps 7-9 and, if a deposit agreement is signed at step 10, to continue processing it in line with that agreement.

No data will be shared with anyone who is not a party to the data processing agreement until a deposit agreement is signed. If no deposit agreement is signed within three months of step 6, we will delete all the data you have shared with us.

5. We set up your account and profile

Once any data processing agreement needed is signed, we will set up an account for your institution and let the authorised administrator know how to access your dashboard securely. The administrator will be able to add other people from your organisation to the account and set permissions for these users.

6. Data deposit

At this stage, we will bring the data you want to deposit into our system, but keep it all private for now, accessible only to you and our support team.

  • If we are taking data directly from an API feed, you will just need to let us have the details.
  • If you are sending us an export file of the data you want to share with us, you will upload this directly and securely via your MDS account dashboard. Our team can help you create your first export through a video call while you are logged in to whatever system holds your collections data.

7. We analyse your data

Once your data is ingested, we hit the ‘analyse data’ button and wait for the system to analyse the structure of your records. Large datasets may take several hours to analyse, so it may be we’ll have to schedule a follow-up call a day or so after your data is first uploaded.

8. Together we agree access permission levels

Once we have analysed your ingested data, we will ask you to specify access permission levels field by field. There are four permission levels, ranging from the most restricted, Administrator, to Public. We will run through the four levels, and how you might want to apply them, with you. For example, if you are depositing all your collections data (perhaps for backup purposes) you might want to restrict fields that include personal information about donors and lenders, or other confidential information such as valuations. It’s up to each museum to decide who gets to see what. We can help you through this process with a video call if needed. Either way, the end result will be a table of any restricted fields that will form part of the data deposit agreement we will draft at this stage. (When you update your data, which we’d encourage you to do from time to time, you won’t need to repeat this step if the number and names of the fields are exactly the same as the original file.)

Permission levelAccessible to
AdministratorNamed individual(s)
Restricted confidentialNamed individual(s)
Restricted non-confidentialNamed individual(s)
Optionally, accredited researchers

9. You preview your data

After we have applied the agreed access permissions, we will ask you to explore a preview of how your data will appear to different levels of user, so you can check that the correct permissions have been applied and that no confidential data will be visible to unauthorised users. We can make any changes needed at this stage and revise the draft data deposit agreement accordingly.

10. We sign the data deposit agreement

When you are happy with the preview of your data, we will ask your organisation’s authorised signatory to sign the data deposit agreement.

11. Your data goes live

With all legal formalities complete, your data will go live in the MDS repository, ready to be accessed according to the permissions you have specified, and used in line with the licences you have granted.

To help others discover and use your data, our support team will have taken an initial look at your data and mapped some or all of your field names to Spectrum’s units of information. These are the concepts you might need to record in the course of cataloguing and the various other collection management procedures covered by Spectrum, and there are over 500 of them. While Spectrum is not, and was never intended to be, a data standard or metadata schema, Spectrum’s units of information provide a pragmatic way for us to analyse data coming from the many different collections management systems on the market or from homemade spreadsheets. The suppliers of Spectrum Compliant systems have already explained to Collections Trust which fields their customers would use to record each of Spectrum’s units of information. This makes it fairly quick and easy for us to create a table that maps your field names to the corresponding Spectrum units, as shown in the example below.

Your field name (eg from Modes)Spectrum unit
ObjectIdentity/NumberObject number
OtherIdentity/NumberOther number
OtherIdentity/TypeOther number type
Identification/BriefDescriptionBrief description

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