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EMu: Frequently Asked Questions

General
What is EMu?

EMu is one of the most sophisticated collections management systems for natural history museums, cultural history museums, art museums, herbaria, botanic gardens, archives and special collections.
Full details about the EMu Collections Management System can be found in the EMu Help.

What kinds of organizations use EMu?

EMu is used by museums, art galleries, historical societies, libraries, universities and colleges, corporations, botanical gardens and herbaria.

What type of collections can be managed with EMu?

Virtually any type of collection can be managed with EMu: cultural history, art, archaeology, anthropology, photography, historical, science and technology, all areas of the natural sciences, archival, botanical and special collections. The extensive configurability of EMu allows for highly tailored collections management solutions.

What size of collection can be managed with EMu?

EMu is used to manage collections of all sizes from the world’s largest electronic museum database at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History comprising many millions of records to small, highly specialized collections with only a few thousand records.

How is EMu licensed?

EMu is licensed by the number of concurrent users that can access EMu on a single server. The smallest licence is for two concurrent users. Institutions may install the EMu client software on as many workstations as they wish. The EMu server software permits only the licensed number of users to use the software concurrently.

The EMu Internet / Intranet interface is included with the EMu licence. If the institution wishes to use the Internet / Intranet interface, it must dedicate one or more EMu licences to servicing Internet / Intranet queries. The number of licences depends on the expected number of queries. As a general guideline, an institution might dedicate one licence out of every five to ten licences to servicing queries. The institution may change the allocation of licences to Internet / Intranet queries at any time.

The EMu licence can be upgraded at any time by paying the difference between the current price of the institution’s licence and annual maintenance and the current price of the new licence and annual maintenance. The upgrade can be activated in a matter of minutes by entering a new licence code on the server.

What can be customized or configured within EMu and who performs the work?

EMu has been designed so that customization is rarely needed. Virtually all changes are performed as configurations. This important distinction allows us to maintain a standard product line and easily deliver upgrades to clients that preserve their specific settings.

The EMu Catalogue module can be configured to suit the cataloguing requirements of the institution. An institution can specify fields, field labels, tab labels, vocabulary controls and screen layouts. We will configure the Catalogue as part of the implementation process. Future changes to Catalogue screens can be performed by us at an additional cost or by the institution if the EMu development licence is purchased with training.

All EMu modules other than the Catalogue are standard and are not usually configured as part of an implementation. These standard modules have been designed to conform to the SPECTRUM standard and suit business practices of collections institutions the world over. Occasionally an institution will request a change to a standard module that would benefit all EMu clients. In this case, we will make the change available to all clients. There is a limited ability to customize standard modules by a process called “subclassing” where an institution has highly specific requirements. Please contact us for further information about subclassing.

The EMu Internet / Intranet interfaces can be configured to suit the institution’s requirements and online presence. The scope of the work and the availability of web database developers at the institution will determine whether the work is performed by EMu or by the institution.

An institution can configure many features of EMu at any time, including:

  • Definitions of users and groups
  • Security permissions and privileges for users and groups
  • Field level permissions
  • Operational privileges
  • The display and order of tabs
  • Default values
  • Mandatory values
  • Field label for image contact sheet
  • Thesaurus and vocabulary control privileges
  • Adding and modifying reports
  • Uniqueness of fields

We provide an initial configuration of these values as part of implementation, based on the institution’s instructions.

Are an institution's configurations and customizations included with subsequent EMu releases?

Yes. EMu uses object-oriented technology to define hierarchical software objects that contain institution-specific configurations. This approach allows us to easily build software releases that contain an institution’s configurations with special consideration or treatment.

How long does a typical EMu implementation take?

A small institution takes approximately three months to implement EMu. A medium institution takes approximately three to six months to implement EMu. A large institution takes approximately six months to one year to implement EMu.
The most important factor affecting the time length of time to implement EMu is the amount of time the institution’s project representatives have available to dedicate to the implementation.

Does EMu store images in the database?

No. EMu stores images on the filesystem of the EMu server with pointers in the database that record the file locations.

Can a separate image server be used with EMu?

Yes. The basic requirement is that the separate image server or network attached storage appear as a read / write filesystem to the EMu server.

For institutions that have separate buildings or campuses with slow network connections, EMu supports one or more mirrored multimedia servers. This allows images that are accessed from remote locations to be cached on a local server, thereby reducing network bandwidth.

Is EMu available for Apple Macintosh computers?

Yes. EMu uses Microsoft Windows Terminal Services to provide full functionality access to the EMu GUI to Macintosh workstations. Macintosh users running OS X may use Microsoft’s free Windows Remote Desktop client for Macintosh. Macintosh users running older operating systems may use a Java-enabled web browser to access EMu. A Microsoft Windows Terminal Services server will be required.

How does annual maintenance for EMu operate?

The annual maintenance fee provides the institution with unlimited technical support and access to all software upgrades. Technical support hours vary by institution location. It is generally Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., excluding public holidays. The actual software developers who develop EMu and Texpress provide Support. This provides the highest level of customer support.

Is after hours or 24 x 7 technical support available?

Yes, for an additional fee. Please contact us for current pricing.

Does EMu work with MARC records?

No. EMu is not a MARC cataloguing program. MARC records can be converted and loaded into EMu. There are also a number of possibilities for integration of EMu with library systems e.g. to provide a web search capability that searches both systems. Please contact us to discuss requirements.

Platform and Database
What are the technical requirements for running an EMu system?

EMu is a client server database application. Read our Technical Requirements for details of EMu’s architecture and the client / sever requirements for running an EMu system.

What is required of a system administrator to maintain an EMu server?

The system administrator is typically responsible for:

  • Physical integrity of the server
  • Operating system and ancillary programs maintenance and upgrades
  • Adding and deleting user accounts and password management, unless the accounts are maintained on a Windows primary domain controller or a Unix NIS server.
  • Backup and restore.
What database management system ("DBMS") is EMu based on?

EMu is based on the Texpress object oriented database management system.
An overview of Texpress can be found here.
Details about optimizing Texpress can be found here.

Is the issue of a proprietary DBMS relevant to EMu?

No. EMu is a commercial off the shelf (“COTS”) application based on Texpress. It provides all the functionality required for collections management, including Internet and Intranet access. Export and reporting capabilities are available via ODBC and XML interfaces. In the majority of cases, this is all that is required for a collections management system. Texpress can be considered to be an “embedded” database underlying EMu. Thus the identity of the database is largely irrelevant. A source code escrow service is available at an additional cost.

What features does Texpress offer for collections management applications?

Collections management applications are primarily query intensive. The queries tend to have multiple criteria. Institutions enter or edit relatively few records during a working day. It is not uncommon for a collections management catalogue table for a large museum to comprise 1,000 or more fields, many of which are text and exceed 255 characters in length. The collections management system must be able to query on any combination of these fields. As the size of the collection grows, retrieval performance becomes a significant issue.

Standard relational DBMS, such as SQL Server and Oracle, are primarily designed for online transaction processing applications (“OLTP”). OLTP applications are characteristically insert and update intensive on numerous tables with relatively few columns. Most industry benchmarks of database performance are designed to measure OLTP.

Texpress was designed specifically for collections management applications. It offers features not available in conventional relational DBMS:

  • There is no practical limit to the number of fields in a table. EMu catalogue tables regularly exceed 1,000 fields.
  • All fields in all tables regardless of length are indexed and keyword searchable without performance or disk storage penalties. Text is a native data type that is fully indexed.
  • Nested tables of repeating values (e.g. Materials) can be stored within a regular table without creating a separate table of material values and a linkage table.
  • The more terms in a query, the faster the performance. Note: update speed is not compromised as a result of query performance.

Texpress can be characterised as “the world’s fastest collections management database management system”. Institutions using Texpress manage millions of records with many concurrent users and extremely fast performance. Texpress can be viewed as the ultimate collections management “data warehouse”.

Is an EMu development licence available?

Yes. EMu ships with a runtime licence. This is sufficient for the vast majority of institutions. Only the very largest of institutions with in-house software developers consider acquiring a EMu development licence and the requisite training.

An EMu development licence provides a development environment and access to the EMu source code repository on the Internet via a virtual private network (“VPN”). This allows clients to check out their source code, modify it and check it in. This process ensures that client-specific changes are always incorporated in future releases. Published style guides on our Developer’s website ensure developers adhere to the correct methodologies.

The EMu web interface can be modified without purchasing the Texpress development licence, provided no table changes are required.

Web
What web capabilities does EMu offer?

EMu offers a standard Intranet and Internet interface.

Can an institution limit what is visible online?

As part of an EMu implementation, the institution nominates fields and records that will be visible. All EMu modules have a standard set of fields for an institution to nominate whether a given record is available on the Intranet and Internet. This allows the institution to maintain one set of records for Internet display and another set of records for Intranet display.
Record level security controls what records are accessed by Internet and Intranet users.

Can an institution define which fields Internet and Intranet users search?

Yes. As part of the implementation, the institution nominates those fields that will be searched by Internet and Intranet users. A standard EMu implementation uses the same set of fields for both Internet and Intranet searching.

What web servers does EMu work with?

Read our Technical Requirements for details.

Can the EMu Internet interface work with a firewall and an external web server?

Yes. The Database server and web server can be on separate physical systems. Systems can be separated by a firewall. A single port of communication must be opened between database server and web server. Communication between the database server and web server uses XML over HTTP. The connection can be an encrypted channel (VPN, etc). The XML over HTTP communication is clear text and easy to firewall (unlike CORBA, ODBC or proprietary binary protocols). The EMu software implements it’s own security on the software layer (in addition to encryption and firewalling). This includes “trusted host” ACL’s and the requirement for XML database connections to use an authentication token.

Can web searches occur on a copy of the EMu database?

Yes, but there is an additional cost to copy the database and no practical reason to do this. EMu web searches are always checked to ensure that the records returned to the user have been authorized for web access. The query power of the Texpress database means that performance is not a concern.

Can the EMu web interface be customized?

Yes. The EMu web interface offers a number of layers to facilitate customization and site integration. Provided are:

  • A pre-build web interface providing web access to EMu (fields defined at implementation)
  • A collection of dynamic “WebObjects” used to quickly develop custom web pages. The WebObjects are PHP classes that are inserted into standard or existing HTML pages to provide items dynamic items such as query forms, results lists, etc.
  • A PHP class library and API tool set to assist advanced Web Developers with custom site design.

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