Collection databases open content

Crossing the ditch – integrating our New Zealand objects with Digital NZ

If you use to regularly read this blog then it probably seems like it has been quiet here but in fact we’re still in one of the busiest periods ever. Today, though, some light through the clouds.

Our friends at Digital NZ (run by the National Library of New Zealand) switched on New Zealand-related Powerhouse objects in their federated meta-search. Now our wool samples and a stack of other objects can be found through any of the many institutions that have embedded the Digital NZ search in their own sites, as well as in mashups built on Digital NZ.

Here’s our wool samples appearing in the sidebar of Te Papa’s collection search, or in one of the nice mashups using the Digital NZ search called NZ Picture Show.

The integration with Digital NZ offers far greater (and more sensible) exposure to our New Zealand objects than expecting New Zealanders to find them initially through our own site. After all it is probably New Zealanders who will be best able to help us document them better. See Rule 1 – findable (was ‘discoverable’) content.

There’s a couple of things I’d like to point out about this.

Firstly, we (still) haven’t made a public API to feed our collection to Digital NZ. Instead they took our updating collection zips and parsed them and ingested the relevant records, pruning them as needed. Whilst it probably would have been nice if we had had an API for them I get the feeling that being able to suck the whole data file down and play with it first made the process for the ingestion easier – even if it comes at the expense of immediate update-ability. Of course this will be addressed once our API goes live.

Second, I love how feeding this data to Digital NZ has immediately had a public benefit in that it is available through all the existing Digital NZ partners and mashups. The work that Digital NZ has done since launch is really remarkable and everyone who now contributes content to them builds upon all their work to date. Contrast this with the innumerable projects with whom data is shared and then sits idle waiting for others to build things with it.

Third, there’s so much additional possibility now with our NZ-related data. Digital NZ users – you even – can go and suggest geo-locations for photos of our like this one with a nice UI. And then we can, in the future, harvest that data back “across the ditch“. Effectively this data hasn’t just gone to an aggregation and presentation service, it has gone to an ‘enhancement’ service.

Fourth, you’ll probably notice that we’re using Google Analytics’ campaign tracking capabilities to have some rudimentary URL-based tracking of federated usage. This gives us the ability to segment out traffic to our collection records that comes via those records that are now visible through Digital NZ. Such use data is critical to building the ongoing business case to federate and release our collection metadata.

Huge thanks to Fiona Rigby, Andy Neale, Elliott Young and the rest of the team at Digital NZ for making this happen, and to Virginia Gow (now at Auckland Museum) and Courtney Johnson (now gone commercial) who kicked this idea off with us way back in September 2009. They more than deserve their Chocolate Fish now.

(Declaration of interest – I and several others of the digital teams at the Powerhouse are Kiwis!)

2 replies on “Crossing the ditch – integrating our New Zealand objects with Digital NZ”

As one of the curators who put a HUGE amount of work into researching our wool collection including the Kiwi samples I am so happy to see them being used in this way!

Thanks for a great post Seb. Yesterday I said “I love my job!” several times. A real highlight and great to finish of all the excellent work that Virginia started with you. I’d like to also mention Dan Charles our technical analyst who did all the clever harvesting stuff with your data. He’s magic. We’re really proud to be collaborating with Powerhouse along with all our content providers. Kia ora.

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