Roman Germanic Central museum for use of easydb - museum for object management, collection management

Roman-Germanic Central museum in Mainz

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A database for everyday Museum life

Innovations in the Roman-Germanic Central museum Mainz

After an extensive test phase, the Roman-Germanic Central museum Mainz (RGZM) is introducing a new web-based database in the spring of this year. This not only stores images, but also links the work processes of many departments: an optimization that in the long term will not only result in greater transparency for (inter)national collaborations - such as the virtual library "Europeana" - but also in the saving of working time and financial resources will be paid out.

About the Museum

The “Roman-Germanic Central museum ” is both a research institute and Museum
for archeology. His research extends from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. Museum in the associated branch, the " Museum for Ancient Shipping" (pictured) . This carries around 150,000 images, slides and ektachromes.

At the start

The idea of ​​introducing a database that would record many work steps related to the Museum objects and offer all employees involved a common work platform was born over four years ago. It began with the realization that such a tool could structure and simplify the work of a large research museum , such as the Roman-Germanic Central museum Mainz of the Leibniz Association. During the Search for suitable technical options, a web-based solution that used so-called open standards quickly emerged. Such a choice not only ensures independence from platforms and operating systems as well as license agreements, but also (if desired) ensures availability of the database application from anywhere in the world. Another important wish was flexible adaptation to the special needs of the large Mainz Museum operation.

The implementation

The Search for a suitable provider ended in the premises of the Programmfabrik in Berlin. Together with their employees, all key points were clarified in a first workshop in May 2008 and an initial specifications were drawn up. It outlined all the points that should be important for the construction of the RGZM-specific easydb database. As it turned out a short time later, the ever-increasing need to adapt the specifications and transfer them to the easydb system would ultimately take around three and a half years - time that, as we look back, turns out to have been well spent.

The structure of the database

The basic unit of the database is the Museum object. It stands with its master data (location, storage location, material, restorative processing, photo documentation, dating, publication, etc.) at the center and binds all further developments of itself: images of the original, data on copies, images of these copies, worksheets, in in which the restoration steps are documented, reprints from in-house publications in which the object is treated scientifically. From this central object, all further Info can be found using various search functions.

Screenshot of the use of easydb - museum for object management, collection management in the Roman Germanic Central museum for

The default view of the RGZM database:

  1. Fields for free text search and item type selection.
  2. Fields for detailed Search .
  3. Right window with Search results, in this case for items with the entry “celestial globe”.
  4. Left window with detailed view, in this case of the object KOPIE_42696a marked blue in the right window, for which all recorded data is displayed or is accessible via additional tabs.

The search functions

The database offers very flexible search modalities. Above the right field, which is reserved for the Search result, there are two lines with input fields.

In the top row, the first field allows a full-text search across almost all fields in the database. This naturally often leads to a high number of hits, which is determined by the selection of the item type in the following field - are you looking for a Museum object, a photo or perhaps a work sheet? – can be further restricted. You can also further restrict a Search that has been carried out once you check the “ search n result” box. An “extended Search ” is also available for a detailed Search within selected individual fields.

In the second line, below the one you are currently looking at, a precise Search is possible. If the number of the photo, the work sheet or the inventory number of the object you are looking for is already known, you first select the prefix - for example "O." for your own original Museum object or "COPY" for a copy located in the RGZM - and completes the entire number or the part that is known in the following field. Since the system in this case automatically adds the wildcard '*' to the character string entered, the required data records can be found quickly.

The following functionality can also be used for the Search and is one of the main features of the database created for the RGZM.

The systematic tree

The integration of a systematic tree was considered particularly important. The individual branches of this tree accommodate the various aspects of the “object” item and can be expanded as desired. They depict, for example, the location of the place where it was found or where it was kept and also allow a fine differentiation: for example, the city of Mainz (in Europe/Germany/Rhineland-Palatinate/) can be the "finding place" of a Roman ship, whereas its exact "finding place" is in the Winter harbor can be located. It is possible to carry out all systematic boxes with the appropriate level of detail, although of course not necessary at every point.

The workbooks

They serve both to structure individual work processes (“Personal Workbook”) and to enable employees to collaborate on a web-based work level (“Public Workbook”) as mentioned at the beginning. This is a structure that makes it possible to summarize data from the database and make it accessible to a self-defined group of colleagues via rights management . The data is collected in any hierarchically arranged folders, similar to what is already known from the text processing operating system.

Rights management

Of course, the ability to tailor access to individual data to each user is important for the security and stable operation of a database. This is ensured by a rights management that can be adjusted in detail, with the help of which not only individual accounts can be assigned, but user groups can also be set up. The inheritance of individual group characteristics allows additional, individual adaptations.

Screenshot of the use of easydb - museum for object management, collection management in the Roman Germanic Central museum for

Further views:

  1. Objects, images, work sheets and PDFs can be put together in workbooks for further use.
  2. The Search results displayed in the right window can be used in different views, here in the text view with links to all linked items.

The “Creator”

The so-called “Creator” makes it possible to modify the web interface after the program factory has completed its work and handed over the easydb database to the customer. This tool also makes a significant contribution to the adaptability of the selected database, which has already been emphasized several times. However, due to its wide range of functions and complexity, it can only be used by employees who are already experienced in these IT matters.

The requirements of each department

A big, if not the biggest, challenge was to map the requirements of the various departments of the RGZM in a database. By involving everyone involved at an early stage in the planning phase, an attempt was made to meet the requirements outlined below.


The database allows an inventory book to be kept with the collaboration of all scientists involved. The newly created entries can be printed out and, if necessary, bound into an analog inventory tape. The digital system also allows access to all existing data at any time using a variety of search masks and printouts, including sensitive data, without damaging the originals - such as the 19th century volumes with watercolor drawings.

Scientific Research

The Museum 's scientists use the entire spectrum Info stored in the database for the individual objects for their research. The processing almost always leads to a publication in the museum own publishing house.

Screenshot of the use of easydb - museum for object management, collection management in the Roman Germanic Central museum for

The systematic tree:

  1. The systematic entries are available in an expandable tree structure.
  2. The entries are editable. They allow differentiated information, including alternative spellings and geographical coordinates.


The publishing house edits and publishes scientific journals and monographs, but also exhibition catalogs, conference proceedings and popular science books that were created in-house or were prepared for the house by external scientists. The print PDFs of the articles and the images used can be stored in the database and made accessible. At the same time, it is possible to store fonts that are to be offered via the web shop and mark them with a release for sale.

Restoration workshops

The work steps carried out and planned by the restorers are documented in the database, and special photographs such as microscope or X-ray images are attached. The resulting data forms the item “Worksheet”.

Photo department

The photographers document the objects in their initial condition and after the restoration has been completed. The images serve as a working basis for the restorers, document the condition of the objects in the inventory (book) and provide illustrative material in the scientists' published contributions.

Image archive

The images taken in the workshops and in the photo laboratory are archived in the image archive and, linked to the diverse data described above, are then available to the in-house scientists and selected colleagues. The immense old analog holdings of the image archive currently represent a major challenge. They, too, are to be digitized and entered into the database in the future, because they – like the inventory – contain scientific “memory” and dam great potential house.

The easydb database is also maintained in the image archive. Given the size of the Museum operations and the amount of data generated, quality control of the data sets for completeness and consistency is essential. The entries in the systematic trees must be checked and completed in various places, such as the list and structure of keywords, materials, epochs, locations and storage locations or internal tags for responsibilities, cost centers or release status.

public relation

Last but not least, the public relations department benefits from all the previously created data. She uses the rich pool of images and Info with material for the external presentation of the house. At the same time, it provides new content for the image database: the images, for example. B. the “Open Day”, exhibition openings, conferences and other events clearly demonstrate the activities of the Museum .

In the near future

The situation now achieved is the successful conclusion of a long phase of detailed elaboration, but is not yet the end of the planning.

Another area is almost finished and will only be fine-tuned in the near future: a web shop for digital images. Sales have so far been handled individually by telephone and email, but will soon also receive support from the database. In the future, press representatives will be able to download views of the Museum locations in Mainz, Mayen and Andernach free of charge in a separate shop area. Recurring requests from well-known textbook publishers for illustration templates can also be processed quickly and conveniently in this way. In addition to the standard offer, the tried and tested email is of course still available for individual inquiries from individual researchers.

An outlook

Thanks to the flexibility that was essential in the RGZM during the planning phase and has now been proven, further areas of Museum operations can be integrated into the database in the future. One example is the Museum 's letter archive. But depot management or a module for loan transactions could also be usefully integrated. There are no technical limits to the ideas!

About the author

Ute Klatt received her doctorate in classical archeology from the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn and then worked as a freelance research assistant at various archaeological museums and the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. Since spring 2011, she has been a research assistant in the image archive of the Roman-Germanic Central museum in Mainz.

Contact: Dr. Ute Klatt, Roman-Germanic Central museum , Research Institute for Archeology, Image Archive, Neutorstraße 2b, 55116 Mainz,

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