The Future is Now: Getty Voices looks back on OSCI and towards the future of museum digital publishing.

This week Getty Voices features digital publishing and the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI). Throughout the week, the Getty Foundation’s Anne Helmreich examines what has been learned from OSCI since its first convening almost 5 years ago. Acknowledging the highly collaborative nature of digital publishing projects, Voices plans to address different perspectives from curators, conservators, technologists, researchers and others.

Anne Helmreich leads us through a week of OSCI posts on Getty Voices.

Whether you’ve been following OSCI or if this is the first you’ve heard of it, this week’s posts will surely provide interesting reflections on the challenges and opportunities of digital scholarly publishing. Anne opens the first Voices post with “The future is now.” Museums have long discussed the unsustainability of print scholarly collection catalogues. They are costly, take a long time to produce and the print runs allow very limited access. But, the research and access to this scholarship categorically support the museum’s mission—is there an immediacy to the moment? Digital platforms help us transform the access end of this equation, but questions remain as to the financial sustainability.  How do our museums need to transform to embrace digital scholarly publishing as a mission-driven function? How can this change the very nature of art historical scholarship? What roles do the fields of digital humanities and data visualization play in this still nascent field?

As a happy disclaimer, I should reveal the special place OSCI has in my personal and professional heart as it introduced me to the field of digital publishing and ultimately led to the idea of the Bliki as a place to build a cross-functional community around museum digital publishing. The Art Institute of Chicago released its beta catalogues in November 2011 on an open source Drupal platform developed with our IMA Lab development partners (which at the time meant working closely with Rob Stein, Charlie Moad and Kyle Jaebker). Now the Art Institute is actively working on ten OSCI-type publications and extending the platform as a research and prototyping tool. If I had to list just one lesson learned from the OSCI project, it would be the importance (and accompanying satisfaction) of collaboration. Digital scholarly publishing is not easy – we can learn from our colleagues in other departments and at other museums; we can advance our collective knowledge by sharing our experiences at conferences and inviting in speakers from the trade sector; we can work with developer partners to sustain and advance open source platforms that meet the specific needs of the museum community.

Aside from daily posts, Voices also has a Twitter feed and Facebook discussions. Join us for a LIVE Google+ Hangout Thursday, July 11, 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EST) where Anne, Kyle Jaebker of the IMA Lab, Nik Honeysett of the Getty Museum and I discuss OSCI technology.

What do you think of the role of digital publishing in museums?