Vol 2 (2022)

A critical evaluation of the impact of controlled vocabularies on the exchange of data and information in Canadian museums

Ayzel Calder
Robert Gordon University
Reflective Professional
Published June 16, 2022
  • Interoperability,
  • museums,
  • Canada,
  • Information exchange,
  • Controlled vocabulary


The study explores the relationship between controlled vocabularies and interoperability within museums. The research works to investigate, understand, and determine the level of interoperability within and between museums and how controlled vocabularies, either universal and unchanged or personalised, impact the success and ability of data sharing and exchange.


A digital survey provided open and closed-ended questions for qualitative and quantitative data from the sample. The sample was selected from the Canadian Museum Association (CMA) and expanded through listservs, from which 55 organisations participated.


The study finds museums lacking in cataloguing practices. The limited number of cataloguers with information management certification has impacted the effectiveness of cataloguing and completeness and consistency of records, primarily through the misunderstanding of rules and standards, and deviations from vocabularies and schema. Data and information exchange through the practice of interoperability largely does not exist within the data set, limiting the ability to make proper connections between vocabulary usage and interoperability strength and effectiveness.


Due to the limitations of the study and survey responses, further research into the understanding of interoperability and the use of controlled vocabularies in Canadian museums is recommended.