Title:‘Re-casting Our Net’: Broadening Information Access at the National Maritime Museum
Authors:Sophia Robertson, Sarah Ashton
Publication:MW2000: Museums and the Web 2000

Following the launch of the Centre for Maritime Research (CMR), the National Maritime Museum (NMM) has enhanced the collections databases already available on the Web with the addition of an impressive range of new and repackaged content. To complement the Museum’s physical redevelopment programme, the very latest information and communications technology (ICT) has been harnessed to transform and substantially extend the CMR’s online information services. These initiatives aim to extend the collections to a global audience, support research, facilitate the exchange of ideas, and encourage new approaches to the subject of maritime studies. This paper will look at its major online developments to date: the Search Station collections resource and Port the maritime information gateway. It will also highlight other initiatives and future plans including the Journal for Maritime Research and online conferencing. The Search Station is a multimedia resource providing thematic access to objects in the Museum\'s collections. The NMM wanted to improve access to the two million objects in its Collections, and so undertook the production of a Search Station, as a pilot project to assess public access requirements. The Search Station offers access to highlights from the Collections, and currently contains almost two thousand exhibits. The content was created to both inform and entertain. Divided into six themes and over sixty topics with a variety of special features, the Search Station offers a user-friendly, innovative and informative resource to audiences ranging from school children and family groups to academic and commercial researchers. Produced in FileMaker Pro with an Internet Explorer web browser, the Search Station is a multi-faceted resource which opened on site in April 1999, and online The production and extent of the content will be outlined, the user profile examined, and the future potential of the system highlighted. Port - an information gateway for maritime studies - employs the open-source software toolkit ROADS (Resource Organisation and Discovery in Subject-based Services) to provide a searchable and browseable catalogue of maritime-related Internet based resources. These resources are specially selected and described by a librarian or subject expert at the Museum. The software (produced by a consortium of developers as part of the UK\'s Electronic Libraries Programme) is highly configurable and includes features such as a cataloguer\'s interface and a link validation report. To the best if our knowledge, the NMM is the first Museum in the world to exploit this technology. Port also extends access to related materials developed by the CMR, materials such as a series of self-help research guides which provide information about the Museum\'s collections and about other sources for research into maritime history. Port was launched at Easter 1999 and has seen an impressive increase in users over the past months. The development and marketing of Port will be examined and features of the gateway will be highlighted.