|Title:||Using Web Services To Deliver Information Integration|
|Publication:||MW2006: Museums and the Web 2006|
In Museums with diverse collection types, the objective of creating an accessible repository which spans the entire collection is fraught with difficulty, in terms of systems and organizational culture. For example, at the V&A, separate systems (managed by separate departments) store information about bibliographic objects, non-bibliographic objects, and archives. Yet both the public and Museum staff think of and work with the collection as a single entirety. Conservation may need to conserve both bibliographic objects and non-bibliographic objects; the Museum needs to consider loans and exhibitions that will span books, objects and the archive; and the public seeks information about the entire collection on-line.
The V&A's Core Systems Integration Project (CSIP) seeks to address this need by making an aggregation of this information available. The project has taken the view that in aggregating data, it must not change where data is mastered (i.e., all editing remains in the "core systems"). Therefore the technical architecture of this "Common Data Model" loosely based on SPECTRUM, which identifies the equivalencies (and non-equivalencies) of the aggregated information, will be made available through a "Web Services" layer, rather than by means of a data warehouse.
Because the language of "Web Services" is XML, (i.e. it receives its query, and formulates and sends its response in XML), it is ideally suited to light-weight browser-based applications that can use the information in accordance with the functionality they are designed to address. The IT industry calls this kind of technical architecture "a services oriented architecture" (SOA). But for the Web, and indeed for Museums on the Web, the potential of Web Services is much wider than providing an internal standard that helps to structure an application layer. Today Web sites are largely built around the notion of providing html that (even when sourcing a database that is accessed through search and retrieve) is static in the way it is presented and what can be done with it. Information from separate sites cannot be combined. Web services addresses this by offering a means of providing access to the base data, allowing the world to do what it likes with that data.