modes collections management

understanding collections

Terminology matters

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Agreeing what units of information need to be recorded and what are the controlled vocabularies required

Dan Miles, Historic England

Modes took part in the Collections Trust’s annual conference in Leicester on 12th September.  The theme of the conference was ‘Keywords’.  

A truly international range of speakers and panellists gathered to give their thoughts, experiences and opinions on this core and often contested subject.  Speakers shared their research, resources and learning outcomes from engaging with both experts and public in the creation of terminology resources.  

Modes user Jane Seddon of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery told the conference about the museum’s Virtually Shoes project and the consultation with costume experts, shoes designers and the interested public to develop a meaning full list of terms which then can be used to search their collections with confidence. This also had to be meaningful to the team of volunteers engaged in inputting the data. 

Modes featured prominently in Richard Light's engaging demonstration of using Linked Data resources to facilitate universal terminology resources.  Richard also posed questions to the Collection Manager community as to who should be keeper and arbiter of these web-based termlists? Click here to read Richard's presentation.

With so many standards and differing requirements where do you start?  Which termlists are accessible, who develops these termlists, who is the authority, and how can we contribute?  Big questions with often no simple answer.  But there is help at hand and a readymade termlist resource published by the Collections Trust at These can be applied as termlists in your Modes system.  


There are three types of termlists which can be used in Modes Complete:

Local termlist – these are the standard Modes termlists which are stored on your local setup and can be managed and edited by yourselves. This is how the majority of Modes users access termlists. Modes come with over 50 supplied termlists including standards such as SHIC and the MDA Entry/Exit Method. Users can modify these existing termlists or create their own.  

Remote termlist – references a shared resource – where common termlists can be held on the MUA server and users can access these.  This would be useful for special interest groups looking for consistency and shared termlists across the Modes community.

Web termlist – Access any external resource in the format they are published in using a Linked Data approach. An example of this supplied with Modes is the database of placename information..  

For more information about termlists – please contact or come and the Modes Day to hear how Modes can support you in this area.  



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