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Roll your own URL shorteners for your museum

Last week I got a tweet from Te Ara asking about URL shorteners as their favoured one,, had stopped accepting URLs.

So I’m happy to announce that we’ve implemented our own URL shortener – – for internal use only. Luke had been thinking about this for a couple of months and we’ve been lining up all the ducks before making it live. is based on a modified version of Yourls, an open source PHP-based URL shortening solution. Implementing it was pretty straight forward and you’ll start seeing shortened URLs of the sort popping up form time to time if you encounter Powerhouse links out in the world.

In fact the biggest challenge was finding a sensible domain to use. Some of the best options we had were stymied by registrar requirements but I think we’ve found a good one that makes sense to human readers – whilst still being short enough to be useful.

All our collection records are now accessible in the form –[object number]. For example, the 3830 steam locomotive can now be reached quickly and easily via

This is especially useful as we rethink the way in which we continue to roll out URLs in the galleries. Not only does the shortened URL make their inclusion on labels a little less intrusive, it also makes for simpler 2D barcodes (QRs etc).

Our upcoming Frock stars exhibition can be tweeted as and The 80s are back is simply

And of course this blog is now easily reached at

5 replies on “Roll your own URL shorteners for your museum”

Nice one!

I’d been thinking about something like that – I’ve had some good conversations with ‘normal’ people about how they’d like to collect objects across museums/exhibitions, and making it easy to link between the object and an online record is the first step. Our accession numbers contain slashes (for part numbers, IIRC), which could make life interesting…

@mia yes we have the same issue of slashes in our accession numbers but our collection management system uses unique numeric numbers which we replicate for our URLs and for our OPAC. Science Museum could snaflle from the San Marino domain registry!

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