An important issue in cataloging is the ability to capture relevant information from multiple types of sources to provide a more robust foundation for research. Our project is indicative of accounting for these various types of sources to round out a contextual understanding of a base topic/artist/object. From using related artworks, a book, and a deeper study of the physical object through 3D scanning, this subset serves as an example of how objects can be vetted and connected to provide a better understanding of a research project. The sky is the limit when beginning to make connections between various holdings within a collection or set of institutions.
While vetting an object to its completion is a wonderful idea, we do however caution the temptation to overwhelm a researcher with too many similar items at once. Perhaps some institutions could avoid overwhelming researchers by changing they way they view and consume the data. There is a similar architecture to organizing sets of data as there is to actually describing each component. The 3D model cataloging project seeks to provide new perspectives of viewing that data by literally providing a way to peel away the layers and explore.
These layers did present many challenges. At first we felt some tension around encoding all of these varied object types with MARC. Different content standards and encoding formats exist precisely because of the need for specificity for different object types. It was very helpful for us to be able to consider the various crosswalks that have been developed to map between different standards. We particularly used the RDA to MARC crosswalks in the RDA Toolkit (2010) and the Getty Research Institute crosswalk (2009) which included MARC and VRA core, alongside many other schemas used for visual materials. This project was a great opportunity to see how most things can somehow be mapped into MARC, however awkwardly. However, it was also important to see that the crosswalks are more complicated than they may first appear, and that in many mapping situations there is more than one possible choice, and careful decisions must be made based on the context of the project.
Also, with a project like this, the complications of entities in the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records conceptual model (FRBR) become apparent as you consider the original artwork, the artist’s own different versions of it, 19th century plaster reproductions of it, 21st century digital 3D scans of it, 3D prints direct from those scans, and casts from 3D printed molds, much less a new artist’s interpretation of the original work, adapting a 3D digital file of the original and creating a new artwork from it. It is possible to relate all those varied forms as expressions and manifestations of the original artwork, but it’s certainly not easy, and the four levels of FRBR Group 1 entities (Taylor & Joudrey, 2009, p. 106) seem at times too few to portray the levels of separation from the original artwork. Working first in the content standards for RDA and then trying to translate them into MARC encoding, it becomes clear that MARC is currently not sufficient for expressing complicated relationships between varied works, expressions, and manifestations, whereas RDA has more potential to describe all of those complicated levels.
As a bibliographic description format, the MARC format focuses on catalog records that are independently understandable. MARC aggregates information about the conceptual work and its physical expression and uses strings for identifiers such as personal names, corporate name, subjects, etc. that have value outside the record itself (MacDougall, Miller, Mueller, & Ogbuji, 2012). This leads to inconsistent representation and duplication of information across multiple records. This is an inherent problem in MARC and one that the community is working to address by developing new bibliographic standards such as BIBFRAME that is expressly designed to replace MARC. Instead of bundling everything neatly as a record and potentially duplicating information across multiple records, the BIBFRAME Model relies heavily on relationships between resources (Adamich, 2013). A robust Linked-Data standard such as BIBFRAME would ultimately improve upon the MARC representations of these highly interdependent information objects studied and modeled in this project.
As 3D scanning technology is only just reaching more widespread usage, the same can be said for Linked Data, and for the growing recognition in general of the importance of representing relationships between resources. Better systems and standards are being developed as we speak to support the kind of integrated library / archive / museum catalog we imagine with this project. Perhaps the timing will be right so that at the moment that institutions are ready to commit to doing a better job of sharing and preserving their files for 3D models, a better format such as BIBFRAME will be in place to better represent these files and their relationships.