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Vernon systems discovers revelation software to be a rare find: OpenInsight provides the foundation for the Vernon Collections Management System for museums and galleries.

WITH A UNIQUE DEPTH OF EXPERIENCE creating specialized software to support institutions with significant art and antique collections, Vernon Systems Limited, based in Auckland, New Zealand, has been solely dedicated to the Museum, Gallery, and Heritage sector for more than 25 years. Institutions around the world with collections of diverse types and sizes depend on Vernon Systems to provide for sophisticated collection management and web access for cultural treasures, backed by the company's trusted support. Vernon Systems, in turn, has long relied on Revelation Software's OpenInsight.

"The Vernon CMS [Collections Management System] includes sophisticated features for cataloging objects and managing related activities such as conservation, loans, exhibitions and web access," explains Matt Crozier, Development Manager for the Vernon CMS.

The Vernon CMS is a fully integrated desktop application requiring little maintenance or specialist IT expertise. The sys-tem can be easily installed or migrated to a different server.

"In museums, the Collections Management System is central to the information processes and workflow procedures for all key professional staff and decision makers," said Crozier, who joined the company in 1988. "Software acquisition at this level is a rigorous process, usually involving request for proposals or tender processes. To that end, key requirements are identified and solutions resolved up front."

Main Development Environment

Revelation Software's products have pro-vided the main development environment for Vernon Systems since it was founded in 1986 by Bil Vernon. Vernon built a management system for an art gallery and then extended it to a modular Collections Management System for use in museums and art galleries. When it was well-received by the museums community, he founded Vernon Systems to develop and market the system, named "COLLECTION."

Over the years, Vernon Systems' use of Revelation technology has evolved, both to meet user demand and stay current with new releases. "Advanced Revelation 1.0 had been released just before we were ready to go into production with the COLLECTION system so we rebuilt the system for this environment," recalled Crozier. "From building several specified bespoke systems for our first clients in the U.S. and Australia, we developed a generic Collections Management System in Advanced Revelation 2.12--'Standard COLLECTION.' Eventually, all our tailored client systems were migrated to the standard product." Vernon Systems revamped the system again to use OpenInsight version 3.60 in the late 1990s. The product is currently on OpenInsight version 8.0.8 and Revelation is now working with Vernon Systems to migrate its system to OpenInsight 9.4.

Appreciation for MultiValue

Vernon Systems' early migration in the 1990s from Advanced Revelation (DOS) to OpenInsight (Windows) meant redesigning the system and since OpenInsight at that time was quite new (version 2), the company took the time to evaluate other options, said Crozier. "We investigated what would be involved in redeveloping the system on a native SQL platform, but we came to realize just how vast and complex the system would be to build and maintain with a normalized back end. This gave us a renewed appreciation for how a MultiValue platform is easier to understand and modify. It is a natural fit for museum data where a lot of information is extensive and repeatable."

Recently, Vernon has also put Revelation's software to work as part of a new initiative. The Vernon CMS has been integrated with a radio frequency identification (RFID) system for tracking the movements of a collection. Fixed RFID readers located at various points about the museum track collection item movement through the museum. When a reader detects the signal from a tag, details regarding the item and its location are automatically updated in the museum's Vernon CMS.

Addressing Specialized Needs

The use of Revelation technology has helped Vernon Systems address its customers' specialized and evolving needs. "The ease with which the system can be extended without affecting existing data is a huge bonus. Fields and indexes can be added without having to rebuild the database in an upgrade, for instance," noted Crozier. "We allow for a certain degree of customization in the standard product, particularly with custom-built data entry windows. These are very quick to develop and easy to maintain using our standard toolset. These can be incorporated into the standard product in a modular way that will not affect other customers, and are easy to deploy."

Vernon Systems prides itself on its customer support. "We find it very easy to diagnose and interact with problems that customers may have. We are able to send them an update if they require one and it is very easy to apply. And, of course Open-Insight has deployment tools built in to be able to do that," said Crozier.

In addition, as Vernon Systems' customer base has grown to include institutions with different types of collections, the company has been able to address their needs, according to Crozier. "We have been able to expand the dictionary for different types of museums and collections. You can just add a dictionary item and it does not change your existing data at all. It just tacks on at the end of a record. That was one of the main reasons we went for the software in the first place and it continues to be very beneficial."

Expanding Product Features

Revelation continues to expand its product features for customers. For example, Crozier said that in the future, O4W (OpenInsight for Web) would be useful for developing small web-based applications that support the main Collections Management System, particularly for use on tablets. An application for a museum's storage areas and inventory and location control needs to be mobile, simple and quick.

At the same time, Revelation has continued the philosophy behind the 4GL paradigm, maintaining a development environment where systems analysts can build sophisticated applications without requiring extensive programming and technical knowledge, noted Crozier. "The world has moved on to internet-based applications, and typical web development environments still require a good deal of varied technical skill. OpenInsight's O4W tool is designed as a framework for Revelation developers to build web apps without having to learn a variety of other languages." --Joyce Wells

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Title Annotation:MV SOLUTIONS
Publication:Database Trends & Applications
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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