Ventures into Database Design

This week my job is to learn and befriend FileMakerPro (FMP). Fortunately, being a UofM student gives me remote access to an amazing online resource called Safari Technology Books Online. It has lots of tutorials and e-books, and I have been poring through them to learn quickly! I will be using FMP to create a basic digital database for the museum that accounts for the last 50 years of MNA’s media history – covering museum events, exhibitions, installations, art, etc through newspaper and print materials. In using the software, I have decided to build a database from scratch. There are a few reasons for this:

  • 1.) This is an American-made software, most of the pre-made templates are constructed in English, and are not language convertible. I want this to motivate a smart, easy interaction and creating the best UX interface I can with FMP is the plan.
  • Two, the majority of the templates can be toyed with a little, but their purposes are much more commercial. Although, in a way, I am creating an inventory, what we want is more along the lines of a library catalog than a sales repository. I want to construct something that completely follows the purpose and aims of the archive that the museum wants to institute. I also want to be able to change and adapt it to our needs. The best way to do this is by scratch.
  • Three, by creating it, I will know it like the back of my hand. As I add and subtract features, and learn about the media collection, I will be better able to teach and explain the software to the museum staff when I leave.

I have been very conscious of the future and growth possibilities of both this small collection, and the museum as a whole in my draft/sketched constructions of the database. When asked what office supplies I need, my first response was a back-up hard drive. They looked at me with some confusion, and concentrated mainly on the cost of a drive large enough to support an ever-expanding database. I understand their apprehensions on spending the money when it is drastically needed in many places. However, with their analog collection in very fragile condition, it is necessary. If they will not allow me the time to fix the collection myself (which would probably be just as expensive, with archival boxes, acid-free paper, labels, etc.), and prefer it digitized, I am firm about them needing a back-up version. If their drives were to crash ten years from now, they would lose everything without a data back-up! And their physical newspaper collections will be in even worse condition 10 years from now. Recipe for disaster.

I have also created table, field, relationship, and file names that can be compatible with online platforms so that this collection database could eventually be availble through their website as a virtual library or research repository. However, FileMakerPro is not the best if they do aim to do this someday. I have debated suggesting PastPerfect to them instead, which is a database/collections managment software made for museums. Even this is a low-level museum software, quickly becoming outdated. The museum I just left, AANM, is trying to get a grant to switch away from it. However, for this museum, it would at least be a software that would have the capability to handle acquisitions and accessions of other museum artifacts and documents. I will try to work with this a little longer before I decide to make suggestions – I’d like to prove myself before I start switching away from what they’ve set up for me. Ultimately, this entire internship is to help this museum. I need to institute something that will retain its value after I leave. I might even run to worse language problems with PastPerfect anyway.

Most of these things are issues that aren’t incredibly pertinent at the moment anyway. Eventually, the issue of a hard-drive and proper software system will need to be addressed, but I first need to familiarize myself with FMP, which they have picked out, and learn about the collections and the long-term goals the museum has for this project.

My favorite part of the day is around 4:30-5:00 pm, when we have the sweetest office tea-time :) The kindest woman brings everyone a simmering cup of tea, and something tasty to go with it (yesterday’s snack was a cheese empanada). It is so precious. They are a very cordial and warm bunch, and are doing their best to make me feel very comfortable. They even gave me the newest computer! And maybe they just like it, but I think they listen to an American radio station just for me (it’s a solid mix of Cher, MJ, Oasis, Taylor Swift, and Flock of Seagulls? haha) I look forward to adjusting into the environment, even if I have to shiver my way through the next two months (it ranges from 35-45 degrees in this office! brrr!). Hace mucho frio! Tendría que haber traído guantes conmigo!



3 thoughts on “Ventures into Database Design

  1. Whatup Sis hope everythings good thought i’d stop in and ssay hey. so hey haha well get back to me.. Love ya


  2. OMG, I didn’t even know you were out of the country!! I feel like such a bad friend. It sounds like you are fitting in very well and remember to have a little fun too while you are on your adventure! You’re the best :)

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