Material Order is a consortium of materials libraries with current academic institutions members being Harvard Graduate School of Design, Parsons School of Design, and Rhode Island School of Design. Using CollectionSpace, Material Order developed the Materials Profile that serves as a shared cataloging tool for the products in their material libraries. The Materials Profile can be further developed as needs are identified. In addition to the cataloging tool, an open-to-the-public discovery system will soon launch in May 2019 to facilitate online searching and access to our materials collections.

Database and Consortium Beginnings

The Materials Profile is the result of a collaborative project that began in 2011 between the Frances Loeb Library, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Fleet Library at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Initial work between GSD-RISD included in-depth studies of the GSD-written Materials Classification Protocol, which developed into a broader and more relevant materials taxonomy and database schema derived by the two library teams.

In 2011, GSD and RISD received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to organize an international symposium, supported by a National Forum grant. Materials Education and Research in Art and Design: A New Role for Libraries, held in June 2013 at RISD, assembled a roster of international keynote speakers and gathered nearly one hundred attendees for a multi-day and multi-format event. The symposium provided a platform on which to promote, test, and share emerging models for materials collections across the world. There was also wide acknowledgment of the absence of a resource for material classification and description in design-related fields. The existence of such consensus, even among widely varied institutions, provided the basis for an emerging community—loosely knit but united around a common need.

Collaboration with CollectionSpace

The GSD-RISD materials database project team was introduced to CollectionSpace (CS), part of the LYRASIS family of platforms, at a June 2015 meeting at Harvard University. With its strong and proven experience in developing management platforms for object-based collections, CS was selected as the right partner to further realize the potential for the materials database and for development of a consortium of materials collections. CS reviewed the Materials Classification Protocol and its GSD-RISD derivative database schema and gained a thorough understanding of the project as both shared and local implementations. With that understanding and the experience of other CS client projects, it was seen that a sizable portion of existing CS programming was re-deployable for the materials database, requiring few customizations. In addition to being a developer with a sound understanding of libraries and cultural institutions, vocabularies, and database field behavior, CS provides a platform that is open source with flexible APIs—allowing users to create a foundation to build upon for future needs and use.

In January 2016, the GSD-RISD project was awarded a CollectionSpace mini-grant. Over the next months the CollectionSpace Materials Profile was developed and GSD data was migrated to seed the shared materials authority. The team began use and review of the system in fall 2016. The shared materials authority was populated throughout 2017 while the shared and local file sync capabilities were created.

In summer 2018, the consortium expanded with the addition of the Donghia Healthier Materials Library at Parsons School of Design. That same time, Parsons was awarded a CollectionSpace mini-grant for the development of a WordPress plug-in to allow front-end search and discovery capabilities of this data-rich multi-institutional environment.