Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Brantley on digital collections and the location-awareness OPAC

October 19th, 2007 by Seb Chan

Peter Brantley over at O’Reilly has put together a short post on his vision of the future of collections – specifically those held by university libraries – which should have resonance with those in collecting museums.

The value to an institution such as Harvard or Stanford of a rich warehouse of print books will inexorably decline as those volumes are digitized and their contents made available elsewhere, interwoven with diverse and additive compilations of data that enrich them with locational and temporal awareness. Libraries tend towards a future of purchasing agents for licensed content provided by external aggregators such as Google, or Ingram; warehouses for special collections; and coffee shops and study rooms.

Yet all is not quite so dire, because I believe out of the ashes of the inevitable fire will emerge a new generation of organizations placing the needs and dreams of people first, borne from the richly innovative hearts of libraries and information technology communities that — if given adequate institutional support — will reshape research, education, and learning. This revolution is still roiling the seas, and not yet landed upon our shores, but innovative and dynamic units will arise within our leading research institutions, and they will center themselves not on books, papers, or documents: but on data. (emphasis mine)

Its not just libraries – it is pretty clear that museums have been working for a long time on enriching their collections with visitor stories and other additive data from the community. Every museum I have spoken to is doing this in some way or another, even if the majority of the activity takes place offline, collection records are being enriched and expanded. And as this happen so the potential for cross institutional value adding grows.

Here’s a quick glimpse of what we should be launching shortly on our own OPAC2.0 . . . location-based browsing and search based on a Google Maps interface. Want to know where objects were made and what else was used in the same location? Very soon you will be able to start browsing our collection for answers. When we launch I’ll explain how we did it . . . and where it is heading next.

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