The online collection experiment that changed a lot of the way I looked at museum collections was the Electronic Swtachbook that we launched at Powerhouse way way back in 2005. The first version took a selection of high resolution images of fabric swatches from the Powerhouse collection of swatchbooks and made them available for free download, asserting that their Copyright had lapsed and that they were now in the Public Domain. One twist was that, because they were not individually catalogued, we enabled user tagging. The experience with that project led directly to the development and launch of the Powerhouse’s then influential “OPAC 2.0” the following year.
Giv Parvaneh who worked as a developer on the Swatchbook and OPAC2.0 as part of my team back then left the Powerhouse and went to work in the UK. A few years later while he was at the BBC we circled back and he added some long discussed ‘colour search’ features to the Electronic Swatchbook in 2009.
Fast forward to today and at Cooper-Hewitt we released colour browsing on the Cooper-Hewitt’s prototype online collection site. Aaron Cope took a look at the colour analysis code that Giv eventually released on GitHub, made a few modifications and enhancements, building upon that good work and now it is live.
In keeping with the generous spirit of Giv’s code release, Cooper-Hewitt also released its code and method to the world.
There’s little value in keeping useful code, useful tools, and useful methods to yourself in the museum sector. As I’ve said many times before, it ends up just keeping everyone from moving forward.