Data-driven systems and system-driven data: the story of the Flanders Heritage Inventory (1995-2015)
Keywords: inventories, databases, cultural heritage, quality control, open source, metadata
Abstract. Over the past 20 years, heritage inventories in Flanders (Belgium) have evolved from printed books to digital inventories. It is obvious that a system that publishes a digital inventory needs to adapt to the user requirements. But, after years of working with a digital inventory system, it has become apparent that not only has the system been developed to the users needs, but also that user practice and the resulting data have been shaped by the system.
Thinking about domain models and thesauri influenced our thinking about our methodology of surveying. Seeing our data projected on a common basemap led us to realise how intertwined and interdependent different types of heritage can be. The need for structured metadata has impressed upon us the need for good quality data, guaranteed by data entry standards, validation tools, and a strict editing workflow. Just as the researchers have transitioned from seeing their respective inventories as being significantly different to actually seeing the similarities between them, the information specialists have come to the realisation that there are synergies that can be achieved with other systems, both within and outside of our organisation. Deploying our inventories on the web has also changed how we communicate with the general public. Newer channels such as email and social media have enabled a more interactive way of communicating.
But throughout the years, one constant has remained. While we do not expect the systems to live on, we do want the data in them to be available to future generations.