Catalogue description Museums and Galleries Commission: Digest of Museum Statistics (DOMUS): Datasets

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Details of EB 6
Reference: EB 6
Title: Museums and Galleries Commission: Digest of Museum Statistics (DOMUS): Datasets

This series contains the Digest of Museum Statistics, a database launched by the Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC) in 1994.

This series contains three datasets which were extracted at various times from the DOMUS database. The content of each dataset varies owing to changes in the DOMUS system and the survey itself. Each dataset represent only a partial snapshot in the sense that the following was omitted:

  • Data gathered in the most recent DOMUS survey relating to questions where museums were asked to supply information on their last full financial year.
  • Data relating to the most recent supplementary questionnaire.

Unsuccessful attempts were made by Resource to transfer another DOMUS dataset to the National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) in 2000. In the event, no usable or complete dataset was transferred until September 2002, when NDAD received a copy of the merged DOMUS and Registration Scheme database from the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) of Loughborough University. The dataset also reflects the substantial changes to the DOMUS database which occurred in 1998-1999 as a result of the Core Database project. Several tables relating to the Registration Scheme have no equivalents in the first two datasets.

The following sections summarise the information contained in the datasets. Although there are significant differences in the structure of the final dataset and the two earlier datasets, much of the content is broadly the same.

1) Core museum information:

  • Official name, address and other contact details of the museum; any alternative name; administrative district; registered charity number, registered company number and VAT number; Area Museum Council (AMC); whether the museum was an AMC member; year of most recent visit by the MGC's security adviser; status under the MGC's Registration Scheme; registration number; year of foundation; type of museum – contained in ADDRESS in 1998, 1999 datasets. Contained in tables INST and T_INST_FROM_DOMUS_AND_BRANCHES in final dataset.
  • Types of collections held by the museum - DOMUS in 1998, 1999. DOMUS_DETAIL table in final dataset.
  • Facilities and services offered by the museum - FEATURES in 1998, 1999. DOMUS_FACILITY table in final dataset.
  • Names and contact details of individuals associated with a museum. PERSON, ROLE, and ADDRESS in 1998, 1999. PERSON, POSITION, PERSON_COMMS tables in final dataset.
  • Names and contact details of institutions associated with a museum - INST, INSTROLE in 1998, 1999. INST table (while INST_INST records links between institutions) in the final dataset.

2) Annual museum information, All three datasets include 'annual' data covering the following areas:

  • The year the questionnaire was sent out (field QYEAR) and the year to which the data relates (field DOMYEAR).
  • The start date and end date of the financial year to which the data relates.
  • The museum's opening hours.
  • Whether the museum charged for admission to its core collections.
  • Data on staffing levels.
  • The types of policies, plans and programmes in place during the most recent financial year.
  • Whether the museum had a friends organisation.
  • The types of bodies managing the museum and owning the museum.
  • The status of the museum in the Registration Scheme.

3) Supplementary questionnaires:

  • Care of collections (1996): Museum buildings and utilities; environmental controls and monitoring; storage space; whether the condition of collections had been assessed; conservation training of staff and volunteers; who undertook conservation work; museums' conservation budgets; energy expenditure in the previous financial year.
  • Public services (1997): Existence of written policies and action plans on visitor care, disabled access and education; training for staff and volunteers in these areas; measures taken to improve the accessibility of the museum and its collections; opening hours; research into users and non-users; disabled facilities and disabled staff; educational and outreach facilities.
  • Collections (1998): Types of collections held by the museum as a percentage of the museum's total number of collections; proportions of displayed collections corresponding to each collection type; strengths of collections by collection type; employment of specialist curatorial staff; accessibility of collections not on display; museum stores; the three 'most famous' objects in the museum; and how respondents would describe their museum.
  • Information technology (1999): Numbers of computers used by the museum, by type of hardware and operating system, and whether computers belonged to the museum or to staff/volunteers; use of computers for cataloguing, environmental monitoring and other activities/services; access to computerised catalogues; digitisation activities; whether the museum had internet access, and type of connection; use of email, newsgroups and the World Wide Web; the museum's web presence; URL of the museum's website; what the museum was doing or intended to do in the area of IT; respondent's understanding of IT and attitude towards IT developments.

4) Registration Scheme: All three datasets provide this basic level of Registration data. However, the final dataset contains significantly more data on the Scheme, as a result of the merger of the DOMUS and Registration Scheme databases in the Core Database project. In particular, three tables (MEETING, OUTCOME and POINTS) contain the following information:

  • The dates of Registration Scheme meetings.
  • The outcome of Registration Scheme meetings for individual museums.
  • 'Points' relating to individual museums at Registration meetings. 'Points' are categorised by 'type' (e.g. 'Documentation: Backlogs', 'Care of Collections: Plan') and by whether the point was 'Action' or 'Monitoring'.

5) Designation Scheme: The Designation Scheme was introduced by the MGC in 1997 in order to identify collections of national and international importance in England's non-national museums. The final dataset contains a single table (DESIGNATED_COLNS) which records details of museums' designated collections.

The datasets in this series are available to download. Links to individual datasets can be found at piece level.

Date: 1988-2002

Hardware: Networked PCs linked to server.

Operating System: Microsoft DOS version 5.0 in 1998. By 2000, Windows 95.

Application Software: Microsoft FoxPro version 2.5 for DOS. The Core Database project in 1998-1999 saw the transfer of both databases to an Oracle 7 database. This was used by the MGC and Resource in conjunction with a report writing package, Arpeggio.

User Interface: Originally based around a series of windows (referred to as 'screens'), which allowed staff to move through the data relating to an individual museum. They included:

  • 'Address' screen giving basic details for each museum (DOMUS number, name, address, ownership, DOMUS contact).
  • 'Facilities' screen giving details of the facilities and types of collections held by a museum.
  • 'Museum Info' screen which repeated address information, and gave the type of museum, its status under the MGC's registration scheme, its registration number, the museum service, the museum's Registered Charity Number, Registered Company Number and VAT Number, the local authority, year of the museum's foundation, date of the last visit by the MGC's museum security adviser, and general comments.
  • 'Museum Statistics' screen which displayed the 'Annual' information collected in DOMUS.

Following the suspension of the Core Database project a subsequent user manual indicates that users of the merged DOMUS and Registration Scheme databases were provided with a typical Windows-style GUI interface consisting of windows, icons, menus, forms and dialogue boxes. As with the earlier version DOMUS, the interface was built around a series of windows ('screens').

Logical structure and schema: Until the 1998-1999 Core Database project, the DOMUS database had a relatively simple logical structure, consisting of eight core tables plus tables which were added for the one-off supplementary questionnaires. This structure is reflected in the first two DOMUS datasets. The structure of the final DOMUS dataset is more complex. The dataset consists of 42 tables. Fourteen tables appear in an entity-relationship diagram which was produced by the contractor in April 1999.

It is more difficult to understand the intended function of the other tables, which include:

(1) Tables which appear to be designed to facilitate 'fuzzy' searching (e.g. T_FUZZY_INST, T_ADMIN_DSCT).

(2) Tables whose precise function is unclear (e.g. EVT_PROFILE, EVT_PROFILE_EVENTS, AQ$_QUEUE_TABLES).

(3) The table relating to the Designation Scheme (DESIGNATED_COLNS).

(4) Tables which cover the same data as other tables, but present it in a different format.

It is possible that some of the tables in the third dataset are intermediate tables that were not intended to appear in the final database: e.g. T_INST_FROM_INST, T_INST_FROM_DOMUS_AND_BRANCHES, SUPPLEMENTAL_OLD.

How data was originally captured and validated: DOMUS data was gathered through paper questionnaires which were sent to museums which were part of the Registration Scheme. The response rate was fairly high: 86% in 1994, 77% in 1995, 85% in 1997. From 1997 questionnaires were sent to museums in June of each year and were returned directly to the MGC. Prior to that date questionnaires were sent to museums at staggered dates throughout the year.

The main DOMUS questionnaire appears to have been relatively stable over the life of the survey. The MGC tended to add new questions or categories rather than to withdraw topics which had previously been asked.

These changes in the questionnaire are reflected in the datasets, particularly in the tables recording 'annual' information. In some records, certain fields may have missing or default values because the field relates to a question which was not added until a later sweep of DOMUS.

The inputting of data from the forms was done in-house by the MGC in all DOMUS surveys except for the 1997 survey, when an external contractor was employed to enter data onto the database. The MGC returned to in-house inputting in 1998. The MGC would contact museums to resolve any ambiguities in returns. A telephone survey involving 45 interviews with DOMUS respondents was conducted by the Museum Documentation Association in 1996 to evaluate the accuracy of data gathered in the survey and attitudes towards DOMUS.

As part of the UK Museums Retrospective Statistics Projects, the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) of Loughborough University attempted to resolve a number of anomalies in the DOMUS data. Data was input from 80 questionnaires from the 1999 survey which had been returned but not entered onto the system. LISU did not input data which was regarded as not being relevant to statistical analysis, such as details of individual contacts. A few records were deleted which were thought to contain 'dummy' data entered during initial testing of the database.

The DOMUS database exhibited a mixture of dynamic and 'closed' (i.e. static) elements. The static side was represented by the tables which held the data from the 'annual' section of the main questionnaire, and the tables for the supplementary questionnaires. The tables in the final dataset relating to the Registration Scheme also appear to have been 'closed', in that data from past meetings was preserved in the system and not overwritten. The other tables in the DOMUS system were dynamic in that they were updated whenever new information was received.

Constraints on the reliability of the data: The MGC acknowledged that many museums (especially those in the local authority and university sectors) had difficulty supplying accurate financial information because their accounts could not be distinguished from those of their parent organisation. Museums operating as part of a group could usually give individual figures for visitors; however, according to the MGC, it was possible that some returns might include combined visitor figures. Museums operating as part of a group could usually give individual figures for visitors; however, according to the MGC, it was possible that some returns might include combined visitor figures.

The report of the UK Museums Retrospective Statistics Project contained a critique of DOMUS, which highlighted the following limitations:

  • DOMUS always focussed on museums which had entered the MGC's voluntary Registration Scheme, despite long-standing plans by the MGC to extend it to museums outside the scheme. Consequently DOMUS misrepresented the total number of museums in the UK.
  • Museums appear to have frequently misunderstood questions or were incapable of answering certain questions.
  • There was a lack of proper data verification before the data was input.
  • The data was always out of date, because of when it was collected and the time taken to process the data.
  • Many AMCs questioned the accuracy of DOMUS for regional purposes, and tended to use their own data instead of DOMUS.

Validation performed after transfer: Details of the content and transformation validation checks performed by NDAD staff on each DOMUS dataset are contained in the catalogues of individual datasets.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in The National Archives: CRDA/12
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Museums and Galleries Commission, 1981-2000

Physical description: 4 datasets and documentation
Restrictions on use: Some data in the DOMUS datasets is closed for 30 years. The DOMUS datasets and dataset documentation are subject to Crown Copyright; copies may be made for private study and research purposes only. Subject to registration under the Data Protection Act. Subject access to the data as defined by the Act is permitted.
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 2010 the United Kingdom National Digital Archive of Datasets

Custodial history: The first two DOMUS datasets were transferred to the United Kingdom National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) from the Museums and Galleries Commission in 1998 and 1999, respectively. The third dataset was transferred to NDAD in 2002 (with permission from Resource) from the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) of Loughborough University. The NDAD then held the datasets until 2010 when they were transferred to The National Archives (TNA).
Accruals: Further accruals are not expected.
Publication note:

In 1998 the MGC launched Museum Focus as its main means of disseminating the results of the DOMUS surveys. Two issues were published, in 1998 and 1999.

Unpublished finding aids:

Extent of documentation: 47 documents, Dates of creation of documentation: c.1994-2002

Administrative / biographical background:

The Digest of Museum Statistics (DOMUS) was an annual survey conducted by the former Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC) of museums which participated in the MGC's Registration Scheme. The Registration Scheme was established in 1988 as a voluntary scheme to raise standards in museums by requiring institutions to demonstrate, as a condition of registration, that they had met basic standards in the areas of collection care, public services and museum management. DOMUS was launched by the MGC in spring 1994 to add to the body of information about museums which was being gathered through the Registration Scheme. The name 'DOMUS' was also used by the MGC to refer to the database that held the results of the survey.

According to the MGC, DOMUS was intended to act as 'a Domesday of the museum business', providing the MGC, Area Museum Councils (AMCs) and individual museums with information that would facilitate strategic planning, comparison and partnerships between institutions, benchmarking, the targeted delivery of services and mailings, and the marketing of the museum sector to the outside world. Its aim was to address the need for accurate statistical data about the museum sector, a need which had been identified in the year of DOMUS's launch in an analysis of the market potential for museums and art galleries. DOMUS was also portrayed as the successor to a similar statistics gathering project, Museums UK, which had been commissioned by the Museums Association in the 1980s. Although the MGC's original aim was that DOMUS would be extended to cover all UK museums (estimated at about 2500 in 1998), in the event the survey only ever covered the roughly 1700 museums which participated in the Registration Scheme. Most of the records in the datasets held by NDAD relate to museums which were fully registered or provisionally registered under the Scheme, although a small number relate to museums whose registration status was 'deferred', 'ineligible' or 'removed'.

The launch of DOMUS in 1994 was preceded by a pilot survey in July 1993 involving 168 museums in the London and Norfolk regions of the Area Museums Service for South Eastern England. Full DOMUS surveys were then held annually from 1994 until 1999. Beginning in 1996, supplementary questionnaires were introduced to gather information on a special topic (different each year), in addition to the topics covered by the main DOMUS questionnaire. The data from DOMUS was used by the MGC for its own purposes, and also to answer external enquiries from non-commercial sources (e.g. from museums, academics or students). However, the MGC would not disclose information which it regarded as sensitive, such as financial information or the addresses of individual curators. DOMUS data was also used to provide background material for MGC publications, such as the MGC's annual reports. In 1998 the MGC launched a new series of annual publications, Museum Focus, as the main means of disseminating the results of DOMUS.

Copies of the database were supplied to the Museum Documentation Association and the Department of National Heritage (succeeded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport). Each AMC held a copy of DOMUS relating to its region, with updates being supplied periodically by the MGC. Representatives of AMCs participated with officers from the MGC and other interested bodies in a DOMUS Users Group (set up in 1995) and a DOMUS Advisory Panel (set up in 1996), to provide feedback and develop policies in regard to DOMUS. A DOMUS Users Group Newsletter was also produced periodically. These bodies and the Newsletter were eventually discontinued by the MGC in favour of more informal contacts with DOMUS users.

In 1997 discussions commenced within the MGC about the possibility of integrating the DOMUS and Registration Scheme databases and other MGC databases. A tender for the creation an MGC Core Database was issued in October 1998, and was awarded in December 1998 to BitbyBit International Ltd. BitbyBit's development work on the Core Database was suspended by mutual agreement in August 1999, after the merger of the DOMUS and Registration Scheme databases (stage 2 of a 5-stage process). The project was placed on indefinite hold following the announcement, in December 1999, that the MGC would be merged with the Libraries and Information Commission. BitbyBit continued to be responsible for maintaining the system until March 2000. The DOMUS survey itself was suspended in 2000 by the MGC's successor body, Resource, pending a review of its information needs and data gathering procedures. Following this review, Resource announced that it would phase in a new programme of data collection in 2002 which would involve a consistent approach across the domains (archives, libraries, museums) for which it was responsible. The DOMUS survey would not be continued in its previous form.

The final significant episode in the history of DOMUS occurred in 2001. The Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) of Loughborough University, in collaboration with Sara Selwood (University of Westminster), was commissioned by Resource to examine the DOMUS data, supplement it with estimates and data from other sources where practicable, and derive trends from the refined data. LISU analysed a copy of the merged DOMUS and Registration Scheme database which was supplied in June 2001. This reflected the structure of the system at the end of the aborted Core Database project. As part of the analysis, LISU entered data from questionnaires from the 1999 survey which had been returned but not entered onto the system, and corrected anomalies in the data where possible.

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