The Museums Computer Group’s UK Museums on the Web conference was on Friday 25 November. It was interesting and inspiring, and I thought some of it might be worth sharing. This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the presentations and papers, just a few of my personal highlights …
The Imperial War Museums’ NESTA-funded Social Interpretation Project aims to create a system using social media models to “seamlessly link communication between online, mobile and in-gallery users” about museum objects (a tall order). Not only development, but project management is going to be using the Agile model, and IWM are collaborating with Knowledge Integration on collections database integration, and UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities on evaluation and user-centred design.
Alex Bromley, Rhiannon Looseley and Matthew Rose, from the Museum of London showed their Collections Information Integration Module (also developed in collaboration with Knowledge Integration) which pulls data from the Museum’s collections management system and other data repositories, allowing staff to augment and customise it for a variety of different educational outputs including Picturebank and Pocket Histories. The same object, based directly on the same underlying data, can appear quite differently as part of the education-oriented Picturebank or as part of the more generally-oriented Collections Online.
Seth van Hooland, Max De Wilde and Ruben Verborgh of Free Your Metadata did a demonstration of live metadata wrangling. Using the freely available Google Refine, a tool for dealing with messy data, they took a sample data set from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, rationalised its categories and then reconciled them to Library of Congress Subject Headings. All live on stage in 15 minutes. Very impressive.
The National gallery’s Joseph Padfield demonstrated some stunning software for zooming in on and referencing very large images of paintings. As organisations like the National gallery produce larger and larger digital images of paintings (to the point where 300MB is considered a ‘small’ image) tools to examine and reference them become more important. The National gallery’s research tools use the IIPImage open source hi-res image-serving system, allowing registration of visual images and x-rays, and direct URL referencing of individual segments of paintings. All in all it makes Google Art Project look a bit pants.