Material Special Interest Group 2016 Meeting Notes

MaterialsSIGnotes2016 (PDF)

Materials Special Interest Group
ARLIS/NA + VRA 3rd Joint Conference. Seattle, WA

March 10, 2016

1) Introductions

2) Shared Materials Database & Materials Consortium

Presentation on collaborative development of a Materials Database and beginning a materials consortium called Material Order by the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Introduction and Background on the Collaboration: Johanna Kasubowski, Alix Reiskind, Mark Pompelia

The Harvard Graduate School of Design’s materials collection was started in 2004, it was initially run by GSD graduate students under the guidance of a faculty member. In 2011, the collection joined the Loeb Library’s Visual Collections and both administration and curation were put in the hands of the library with a faculty liaison. The collection had an accompanying database, though of questionable stability. The GSD wanted to stabilize the technological infrastructure and improve the metadata, to do this they connected with a like-minded partner – the Rhode Island School of Design. RISD had performed a materials audit in 2009 that showed materials being informally housed in many of its departments; the idea of a centralized collection in its Fleet Library was widely supported and launched. The formation of a materials special interest group within ARLIS/NA and its first meeting in spring 2011 provided the catalyst for GSD and RISD to partner.

In 2012 RISD Fleet Library was the recipient of an IMLS-funded national forum grant to assemble materials researchers, authors, designers, artists, and librarians for a multi-day symposium held in June 2013, Materials Education and Research in Art and Design: A New Role for Libraries. In addition to learning from the critical insights of material considerations by these users, consensus was reached among librarians to establish community and create shareable resources, starting with the symposium’s White Paper. Site visits to many US-based academic and commercial materials collections confirmed their inherent uniqueness but also common needs for collection development, classification and description, and enhanced access and user engagement.

Initial conversations between GSD-RISD included in-depth studies of GSD’s original materials classification protocol, morphing into a broader and more relevant materials taxonomy. GSD-RISD project members interpreted this taxonomy, formed it into a schema, and worked with a local, independent database developer. The team learned a great deal through this exercise; one part was that a developer that had a better understanding of libraries and cultural institutions, the organizational structures and vocabularies they use would serve the project far better. This led to CollectionSpace.

Project Team

Materials Database Schema Highlights

Following are the key concepts of the taxonomy that will provide multiple points of access to meet research needs:

  • Composition
    Classification of materials per 5 compositional families – BIOCOMPOSITES, POLYMERS, METALS, MINERALS, and CERAMICS. The composition classification is hierarchical with identified classes and generics in each of the composition families.
  • Form
    Materials are classified into three broad categories – planar, linear and volumetric – which are then future defined by types and subtypes.
  • Properties
    Mostly derived from the material sciences, properties speak to the abilities of each material to be fitted to the mechanical, hygro‐thermal, electrical, optical, acoustical, and durability task asked of it as well as sensorial properties and those inherent in smart materials.
  • Material Ecology
    Environmental properties that speak to Life Cycle Assessment. They include: recyclable, biodegradable, renewable resource, landfillable, embodied energy, and certification credits.
  • Process
    Processes classifies the manufacturing methods used to make the material. Processes can deform the original substance, be additive, or subtractive. They include: casting, molding, machining, deforming, surfacing, joining, and rapid prototyping.

Additional Data Entry Points
Additional data entry points include the following:

  • Featured applications
    References of highlighted works where the material has been used.
  • Typical uses
    Provides some of the typical uses in the generic sense of the material in the design fields, usually according to the vendor’s description, but will not be exhaustive.
  • Locations
    Accounts for applicable locations – origin, manufacturing, distribution, and application – of the material to allow mapping of distance traveled, which is part of lifecycle assessment.
  • Description
    Very short text that introduces the principal and particular features of the material or product emphasizing the aspects that make it unique or special.
  • Media
    Associated media that represents the material or product.
  • External Resources
    Field to enter data from material standards establishments, i.e., Granta, CSI.

Development of Database and Demo: Megan Forbes, CollectionSpace

Working closely with the developers (first Panoptic and now CollectionSpace), GSD-RISD are able to bring together the taxonomy and schema and make it work. The team is excited about CollectionSpace as it provides a platform that is open source with flexible APIs – allowing members to create a foundation to build upon for future needs and use for many years to come.

Megan Forbes provided a walkthrough of the Material Authority in CollectionSpace.

If interested in seeing the demo, please go to and sign in with the below credentials.


Password: password
Questions? Interested in a more extensive demonstration? Contact Megan.
Megan Forbes, CollectionSpace Program Manager
meganbforbes Skype

Draft Framework for Consortium: Leigh Grinstead, LYRASIS
As part of the CollectionSpace mini-grant award, GSD-RISD hired a consultant to provide guidance in the development of a consortium. The Project Team met with Leigh Grinstead in February 2016. Below outlines the goals of the meeting and foundational framework accomplished by the group.

Consortium Development

  • Create policies, procedures, and foundational documents that will guide the development of the GSD-RISD Materials Consortium
  • Develop steps for the initial formation of a larger consortium including a timeline
  • Assist in drafting the governance structure for a consortium
  • Identify membership activities and membership levels
  • Prepare a report/action plan detailing needs for various working groups
  • Share information at ARLIS/NA + VRA Materials SIG meeting in Seattle

Draft Mission Statement

  • Material Order provides a community-based approach to management and access to design materials collections utilizing and developing standards and best practices. This includes an open-source collection management database, and an access system that allows searching across international materials collections to support research and applications in the design fields
  • Material Order is accepting of all design materials collections regardless of size or collecting scope, it is open, shared, inclusive, and welcoming
  • It is our hope to inspire more to join and expand the consortium

Draft Vision Statement

The consortium is the leading resource for design materials collections.

Membership Benefits

  • Collections management system already built—no need to develop or maintain the software personally
  • Delivery mechanism for users
  • Community and information sharing including access to technical and user support
  • Eligibility to serve on the Steering Team and working groups
  • Authority control is managed by the consortium and decisions made by working groups
  • Maintenance, hosting, and future development costs are shared
  • Potential to drive future development and enhancements
  • Testing and feedback processes are formalized
  • Professional community of like-minded professionals
  • Foundational taxonomy is provided, schema is developed
  • Cataloging standards maintained
  • Training and development provided
  • Shared platform
  • Opportunities to contribute to the ongoing development of the taxonomy
  • Ability to request future enhancements

Budgeting and Costs (preliminary stages)

  • Significant investments have already been made
  • Taxonomy development
  • Schema development
  • Mini-grant from Mellon for CollectionSpace
  • This is not intended to be a cost recovery model
  • Goal is to make the consortium sustainable and affordable

Proposed Organizational Home

The Society shall seek opportunities for collaboration across institutions and cultural organizations to promote the informed management, preservation, discovery, and access to collections amid their evolving publishing manifestations.

ARLIS/NA actively seeks collaborative relationships with other arts and information organizations to further the goals of art information professionals.

Proposed Working Group Structure

Steering Team

Working Groups

  • Needs Assessment and Evaluation
  • Identity, Brand, and Digital Presence
  • Marketing and Communication
  • Taxonomy, Schema, and Testing
  • Training

Conversation about How to Participate

Discussion ensued across a variety of topics with consensus to continue the conversation and formulate next steps.

3) New / Old Business, Mark Pompelia

Mark asked group for a volunteer to chair or co-chair the Materials SIG. Group members are to consider this and, if interested, get back to Mark.


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