A new service aimed at connecting UK museum’s object records has launched with its first early adopters.

The Museums Data Service (MDS) is a joint start-up project by Art UK, Collections Trust and the University of Leicester, supported by funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

It has been designed to collect collection-related data from museums including location and opening times, summaries of collections with highlights and sub-collections, object records, exhibition text and keywords. The MDS repository will not hold any image files or other media assets such as audio or video files.

Work on the project began in November 2022. The project is set to begin training and onboarding museums next month, and plans to publish collection summaries for all 1,700 Accredited museums by May 2024. By 2033, it plans to have collected object records of all Accredited museums.

The first major user of data from MDS will be project partner Art UK, for which tools have been created to enhance records from the MDS repository and bring them over to the Art UK website. MDS claims the tools, which have potential to be adapted to other types of collections, will double the number of artworks featured on the Art UK website by summer 2024.

In its support role funded by Arts Council England, Collections Trust is working with small museums to share object records with local people and futureproof project outputs as linked data with MDS. Wolverhampton Museum, St Barbe Museum, and the Royal Engineers Museum are among the museums involved.

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