Logo for EODEM (Exhibition Object Data Exchange Model)

EODEM update 8 – launch

It’s been a while coming but … today, 1 September 2023, the CIDOC Documentation Standards Working Group (DSWG) announced the launch of its Exhibition Object Data Exchange Model (EODEM) as a live, finalised standard. Specification files can be accessed via the project’s pages on the CIDOC website, and developers can obtain support via email.

The aim of EODEM is to save people working in museums from wasting their time continually cutting and pasting (or even worse, retyping) information between different collections management systems (CMSs) when they’re borrowing objects for exhibitions.

This might sound trivial, but the resources wasted can be significant. Just how significant has been revealed by a survey undertaken late last year by the DSWG. Assuming that staff spend a full seven hours a day on data-entry, over a ten year period, the median time spent entering data for loans in would amount to 48 days, and the mean would be 127 days – very nearly 7 months, so well over half a working year. And in the case of one institution, loan-in data entry would take 750 days: nearly 3½ working years. There are too many variables to convert these figures into salary costs, but there’s a significant potential to make long-term savings if we can automate loan-related data entry.

What is EODEM, and how does it work?

And automating data entry for museum loans is exactly what EODEM is supposed to do. It should work like this:

  1. We start with an object …
  2. … which is recorded in a database
  3. The lender opens their CMS and finds the object’s record
  4. They press their CMS’s ‘EODEM export’ button
  5. The CMS creates an EODEM file
  6. The lender emails the EODEM file to the borrower
  7. The borrower receives the email and saves the file
  8. They open their CMS …
  9. … and press its ‘EODEM import’ button
  10. The CMS stores the object’s data in the borrower’s database
An animation showing how EODEM would be used to transfer data about an object from lender to borrower
How EODEM should work

The data shared using EODEM focusses on what’s important when organising an exhibition: summary data about the object itself, but also its needs whilst out on loan: environmental requirements, security, handling and transport conditions, and so on. Having said that, we’re aware that many museums may not have all that information in their databases; but even being able to exchange basic object identification information automatically using EODEM is better than nothing, and EODEM allows for very minimal data to be shared if that’s all that’s available: after all, something’s still much better then nothing.

As well as saving time, by automating the import of data into CMSs, EODEM should also reduce the risk of data errors. And exhibitions aren’t the only occasions when people need access to this kind of data – we can see that EODEM might be useful in any of the following contexts:

  • Exhibition and museum fit-out
  • Display case manufacture
  • Development of apps and audio guides
  • Insurance
  • Shared storage management

How can I start using EODEM?

But the model will only work if the vendors and suppliers of museum CMSs and related systems actually implement EODEM exporters and importers in their software. For the technically-minded, EODEM is a profile of LIDO 1.1; so if a supplier already has a LIDO exporter or importer in their software, they’ve already done perhaps 90% of the work required to implement EODEM.

In fact, an exporter and an importer are already available in museum-digital‘s musdb system, and Zetcom‘s MuseumPlus; a further eightcompanies are currently either implementing, or planning to implement, an EODEM exporter and/or importer:

AxiellAxiell Collections, Mimsy XGunder developmentunder development
Axiell / MusoftMuseionunder developmentpossibly
Gallery SystemsTMSplannedunder development
Knowledge IntegrationCIIMplannedno
KulturITPrimus, DigitaltMuseumunder developmentunder development
Modes Users AssociationModesdue in next major releasedue in next major release
Sistemas do Futuroin arte, in patrimoniumplannedno
Userix OyCollecteplannedpossibly
Companies implementing, or planning to implement, EODEM in their CMSs

So, if the CMS that you use is on this list, ask your supplier when they expect to have EODEM fully incorporated into the software; and if it’s not, tell them about EODEM and ask them when they will start work on developing an importer and an exporter – after all, surely they want to help save you time and trouble?

The bigger picture

Sharing data between museums has been discussed since at least 1888; and sharing between museum databases, since the 1980s. The holy grail is being able not just to export data to aggregators like Europeana, but in a way that lets the data be imported and used between multiple CMSs. EODEM is significant as one of the first practical solutions to this problem: we hope that we have demonstrated that, with modern technologies and standards, the work required is relatively trivial.

Thank you to …

EODEM has been something of a labour of love for me – although I’ve not had a hand in the technical work, I’ve coordinated the various meetings at which the standard has been developed, and worked on the definition as it evolved. But the credit really belongs to many other people, beginning with Norbert Kanter and Jonathan Whitson Cloud for the initial impetus (and logo designs and viewer hosting, respectively). Over and above the regular attendees at our development meetings, the following have worked tirelessly on the project:

  • Jette Klein-Berning – proof-of-concept and XSLT development and profile reviews
  • Maija Ekosaari – conference workshop organisation and facilitation
  • Richard Light – proof-of-concept, viewer and extensive XSLT development
  • Rob Tice – the initial draft LIDO mapping
  • Sascha Curzon – viewer development
  • The LIDO Working Group, particularly Regine Stein – advice and altering LIDO version 1.1 to take account of EODEM’s needs

And the following have helped us with developing terminologies and establishing new terms in the vocabularies that they manage: Antonio Beecroft, Eric Hagan, Gordon McKenna, Jonathan Ward, Kevin Gosling, Lynne Harrison, and Simon Lambert.

What next?

We plan to tell people about EODEM at the 2023 CIDOC, Collections Trust, and MCN conferences – and anywhere else that’s interested and will have us (just let me know if you’d like us to arrange a presentation).

To help us make the argument that EODEM really is useful, we’ve reopened our survey on museum loan-related data entry (with the questions now available in Spanish as well as English). If you haven’t already completed it, please do fill it in. There are only eight questions, and responses received before Tuesday 19 September will be made available in time for the CIDOC conference.

But most importantly: if you use collections management software, ask your system supplier to implement EODEM; and if you supply museum systems, please do add an EODEM importer and exporter to your product. We’ll be happy to provide help and advice; it will make your clients’ lives easier; and the more people that can use it, the more useful it will be!

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