API Collection databases Metadata open content Semantic Web

Things clever people do with your data #65535: Introducing ‘Free Your Metadata’

Last year Seth van Hooland at the Free University Brussels (ULB) approached us to look at how people used and navigated our online collection.

A few days ago Seth and his colleague Ruben Verborgh from the University Ghent launched Free Your Metadata – a demonstrator site for showing how even irregular metadata can have valued to others and how, if it is released rather than clutched tightly onto (until that mythical day when it is ‘perfect’), it can be cleaned up and improved using new software tools.

What’s awesome is that Seth & Ruben used the Powerhouse’s downloadable collection datafile as the test data for the project.

Here’s Seth and his team talking about the project.

F&N: What made the Powerhouse collection attractive for use as a data source?

Number one, it’s available for everyone and therefore our experiment can be repeated by others. Otherwise, the records are very representative for the sector.

F&N: Was the data dump more useful than the Collection API we have available?

This was purely due to the way Google Refine works: on large amounts of data at once. But also, it enables other views on the data, e.g., to work in a column-based way (to make clusters). We’re currently also working on a second paper which will explain the disadvantages of APIs.

F&N: What sort of problems did you find with our collection?

Sometimes really broad categories. Other inconveniences could be solved in the cleaning step (small textual variations, different units of measurement). All issues are explained in detail in the paper (which will be published shortly). But on the whole, the quality is really good.

F&N: Why do you think museums (and other organisations) have such difficulties doing simple things like making their metadata available? Is there a confusion between metadata and ‘images’ maybe?

There is a lot of confusion about what the best way is to make metadata available. One of the goals of the Free Your Metadata initiative, is to put forward best practices to do this. Institutions such as libraries and museums have a tradition to only publish information which is 100% complete and correct, which is more or less impossible in the case of metadata.

F&N: What sorts of things can now be done with this cleaned up metadata?

We plan to clean up, reconcile, and link several other collections to the Linked Data Cloud. That way, collections are no longer islands, but become part of the interlinked Web. This enables applications that cross the boundaries of a single collection. For example: browse the collection of one museum and find related objects in others.

F&N: How do we get the cleaned up metadata back into our collection management system?

We can export the result back as TSV (like the original result) and e-mail it. Then, you can match the records with your collection management system using records IDs.

Go and explore Free Your Metadata and play with Google Refine on your own ‘messy data’.

If you’re more nerdy you probably want to watch their ‘cleanup’ screencast where they process the Powerhouse dataset with Google Refine.

Collection databases open content Powerhouse Museum websites

Introducing the alpha of the Museum Metadata Exchange

The Museum Metadata Exchange (MME) is a project that started mid last year (2010) as a collaboration between the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) and Museums Australia (MA). Funded by the Australian National Data Services (ANDS), the project is key infrastructure to deliver museum collection-level descriptive (CLD) metadata to the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC).

That’s acronym city. So here’s the human-readable version.

The MME takes a different approach to collections. Instead of focussing at the object or item level, it moves up a notch to ‘collection level’. This has the benefit of providing an overview, a meaning and a scope that can be hard to ‘see’ at object level – especially if you were, say, looking for which museums had shoes made in the 1950s and worn in Australia. The other benefit of collection level descriptions is that the objects grouped in this way don’t necessarily need to be online or digitised (yet) in order to be discovered.

The project is funded by ANDS in order to ensure that these descriptors of museum collections are added to the Research Data Commons to be used and explored by academic researchers. In many ways this makes a lot of sense – academic researchers are far more likely than general web users to need to come and see the ‘real’ objects and make long term connections with staff at the host museum to conduct their research. And so, by exposing collection level descriptions especially for ‘yet to be digitised’ collections, the project is pulling back the curtain on those hidden gems held by museums across Australia. In fact, several of the staff working goon the project who deal with objects everyday were regularly surprised by what they were finding in other people’s collections – “oh I had no idea that they had some of those too!”.

Collection level descriptions have provenance and descriptive metadata along with semi-structured subject keywords, temporal, spatial and relational metadata. (Here’s a list of 66 Powerhouse collections and a single record on our rather excellent Electronic Music Collection.)

The first public iteration pulls together nearly 700 collections from 16 museums across Australia and future iterations will add more – primarily major regional collections, I would expect.

But . . .

The site itself is really a simple public front-end for a data transformation service. It isn’t supposed to be the primary place for anyone, not even researchers, to search or browse these collection level descriptions. It is a transformation and transport mechanism that acts as broker between the individual museums and the Research Data Commons. To this end anyone can download the XML feed of the collection level data from the site – this is the same data that gets passed on to the Commons.

Of course, we’ve tried to ‘pretty-up’ the rawness of the site a bit. The first iteration has lovely identity work done by emerging Newcastle-based designer Heath Killen. But the search is very rudimentary and there is currently no way to pivot by keywords or do the temporal or spatial searching – this sort of functionality is supposed to be handled by the various academic interfaces for the data once it reaches the Research Data Commons. We will add this to the MME site itself over time.

Go and have a bit of an explore – the best way of understanding the project is by taking a look at the sort of data that is already in it. If you’d like some more detailed background information the project also has a < a href="">microsite for contributing institutions.

Oh, and, we’re expecting to release the Powerhouse Object Name Thesaurus (already downloadable as a PDF) as a data service shortly as part of this project too. This thesaurus has been used by the project to start to normalise the data to a degree and it is expected that by making the thesaurus available as a data service, that there will be both read and write opportunities . . . .

Digital storytelling Geotagging & mapping open content

Sharing with SepiaTown – historical images re-mapped

Early in the year when I visited Josh Greenberg and the digital team at the New York Public Library, I was told about SepiaTown.

One of quite a few ‘Then & Now’ web projects (see also History Pin), SepiaTown puts historic images back on the (Google) map, also using Google Street View to connect the photography of yore with those of today.

We figured that we’d give SepiaTown a full collection of the geotagged images of Sydney from the sets we’d uploaded to our repository in the Commons on Flickr, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we uploaded a datafile and waited.

We knew that quite a few of the geotags on these images were ‘approximations’, and that to properly do Then & Now, you also need to know the direction in which the photographer was facing. And we also knew that neither the metadata in Flickr or on our own system was enough.

So you can imagine our surprise when Jon Protas at SepiaTown popped into our inbox advising us –

We quickly discovered when we first dug into your collection’s geo-locations that many of them were mapped in a fairly general way, and fell short of our quality control levels. We spent the summer spot-checking each one and correcting the locations for almost all of the images you provided, and we are now confident that the vast majority of the images are now mapped within a 20 yard radius of the exact camera location (and are facing the right direction).

Some were quite tricky, but fortunately, site designer Eric Lehnartz, who is also our main uploader (and a bit of a geo-locating savant), was able to deduce even the more obscure and rural locations.

Wow. They’re improved, fixed, tweaked!

Not only that, SepiaTown are sending the corrected dataset back for ingestion into both our collection management system and thus also into Flickr.

Big thanks to Jon & Eric!

Here’s a few to try from the Powerhouse set (follow the link then click the Then/Now option):

Blaxland’s Tree
Sussex St, North from Market St
Erskine St, West from Kent St
The Spit, Middle Harbour

Check out their blog for other highlights. They have some fantastic images mapped in there.

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!)

Collection databases open content

Malcolm Tredinnick on some problems with working with our collection dataset

Down at the recent Pycon we were excited to hear that Malcolm Tredinnick had taken the downloadable collection dataset from the Powerhouse and was using it to demonstrate some of the issues with working with (semi-)open datasets.

His presentation reveals what every museum knows – the datasets that exist in our collection databases are inherently messy. But we’re always working to improve the quality and structure of these datasets. Without them being publicly available to be worked on in new ways by non-museum people we’d never discover many of the flaws in them.

Here’s his presentation which is well worth watching if you are a developer or museum technologist and thinking of making your raw data available.

There’s some modifications and improvements coming to our downloadable data very soon – data release projects can’t just be a ‘set and forget’ arrangement.

Malcolm’s code for cleaning up our data is up on Github.

open content User experience Web 2.0 Wikis

Why Flickr Commons? (and why Wikimedia Commons is very different)

The Powerhouse is coming up to the 2nd anniversary of our joining the Commons on Flickr. Back when we joined there was only the Library of Congress and we trusted that we were making the correct decision back then. (I’ll be blogging an interview with Paula Bray around the time of the anniversary.)

A lot has changed at Flickr in the intervening time but I’m still confident that the Powerhouse made the right choice. In fact, the impact that joining the Commons on Flickr has had on the organisation has been unexpectedly significant. We’ve even started to move some photographic collections that were acquired as ‘archives’ into ‘objects’ in their own right. And photography is becoming an important marker of what we do at the Powerhouse. We’re delving into photographic competitions much more too and we’ve changed how we approach visitor photography too.

A couple of days ago Mia Ridge, Lead Web Developer at the Science Museum in London blogged a question – “Why do museums prefer Flickr Commons to Wikimedia Commons?”.

This was responded to by Liam Wyatt of Wikimedia Australia who outlined a case for why Wikimedia Commons might, in fact, be a better fit than Flickr – especially now that the Commons on Flickr is currently not taking new requests to join whilst they process the volume of existing applications.

For the Powerhouse the aim of placing some of our “no known Copyright” photography into the Commons on Flickr was to seed these photographs to a large, broader and interested audience who, in return, could add value to the collection by commenting and tagging the photographs.

Later, we’d find that other value would emerge.

The well documented Flickr API allowed for the construction of a good number of mashups and other applications to be built upon the photographs both by others and by us. We published a book, made easily and relatively quickly using the data.

For us the Flickr Commons is currently different from the Wikimedia Commons for a number of reasons –

1. Context matters a lot.

There is a reason why the Commons on Flickr has focussed almost solely on photographic collections, and that is because Flickr is a site that has been and continues to be designed for people interested in photographic images. As the Library of Congress stated in their initial rationale for joining Flickr, it was to “share photographs from the Library’s collections with people who enjoy images”. And where is the largest community of people with such an interest on the web? Flickr.

2. User experience and community

Because of this known user base Flickr has a well developed user interface and user experience which purposefully creates and helps encourage certain social norms and acceptable behaviours. The requirements of verified user accounts and personal information all work to reduce the negative effects of anonymity – critical in building a positive sense of community, even if they exclude some users as a result.

3. Managing that community

Flickr has a well developed set of community management tools and community managers who are employed specifically to ensure the community ‘plays nice’ and there is a hierarchy of escalation should it become necessary. The cost of US$25 per year is incredibly cheap for this.

4. A sense of content control

Uploaded images as well as any user generated content such as tags or comments can be removed at any time.

5. Statistics

Flickr has good enough tracking and measurement tools which are useful for checking where users are coming from, what they are looking at, and what they do. Ideally the statistics that we could draw from Flickr would be more useful and able to be downloaded in raw form and segmented – but even in the rudimentary state it is possible to see ascertain why there are sudden spikes of traffic to particular images, or when an image gets lots of comments.

The Wikimedia Commons is, currently, a pool of images which can be used for many purposes. However without visibly active community around the images they exist without a clear ‘intended purpose’. In fact they only encourage viewing or takeaway (download). For some people this is liberating – a resource without obvious legal or social constraints. But much in the same way a museum is neither a library or a “shed full of stuff”, the ability to have known manageable social constraints is in fact quite valuable.

I am pleased that Liam mentions the Wikipedia Usability Iniative and once this is completed the Powerhouse and others will no doubt explore the opportunities.

Even without direct participation in the Wikimedia Commons the Powerhouse has been interested to see that many of the images have been copied into the Wikimedia Commons. And then used to illustrate various articles in Wikipedia. This has been a fortuitous outcome but it was never a primary aim of the Commons on Flickr project – nor would it be one today. Other Commons institutions have not been as positive about this migration of content to Wikimedia.

For us, the overall community effect of Flickr and the deep engagement by a small but passionate group of Flickr users, has been the most positive result for us.

Whilst Wikipedia and Wikimedia are, in themselves, exciting projects, their structure, design and combative social norms do not currently make them the friendly or the protected space that museums tend to be comfortable operating in.

Whilst Liam (especially! 1 & 2) and many others are working hard to make Wikipedia and Wikimedia a better place for museums and their content, these are very difficult structural issues to resolve.

It is worth remembering that when the Commons on Flickr started it was the brainchild and passion of George Oates. She was able to ‘make it happen’. Now Liam Wyatt might be in a similar position – if Wikimedia were ‘less democratic’ (some might say dysfunctionally democratic). Except the structure of Wikipedia/Wikimedia makes that nigh impossible.

Nevertheless I’m excited about the strategic workshop in Denver looking at how museums might work with Wikimedia that will surface many of these issues. They are complex and many.

open content Web 2.0

Downloading, mashing and remixing our collection metadata

As you may know, we released our collection metadata a little while back as a downloadable archive. It is linked from both the NSW Government as well as the Federal Government‘s Data Catalogues.

This has enabled it to be used in the current Mashup Australia contest and related Hack Day events and for the forthcoming Apps4NSW contest.

Luke Dearnley was recorded by Sarah Rhodes for the Govhack event in Canberra last week in the video above. You might notice Luke’s resemblance to the historical figure from the Smithsonian’s Flickr Commons collection in the background. Spooky.

If you do end up making cool things like BuildAR, Paul Hagon and ABC Innovation have done with our open data then please tell us!

And don’t forget to enter your mashups in those contests!

Conceptual open content

Some clarifications on our experience with ‘free’ content

Over on the Gov2 blog a comment was posted that asked for more information about our experience at the Powerhouse with ‘giving away content’ for free.

I’d be interested to know more about your experience with Flickr and your resulting sales increase. Are these print sales or licensing sales? And are they sales, through your in-house service, of the identical images you have on Flickr, or are you using a set of images on Flickr as a ‘teaser’ to a premium set of images you hold in reserve? How open is this open access? I am trying to understand the mindset of users in an open access environment who will migrate from ‘free use’ to ‘pay-for use’ for identical content, as this makes no sense, either commercially or psychologically, unless there is additional service or other value-add.

Whilst I communicated privately a lengthy response I think some of it is valuable to post here to clarify and build upon the initial findings published by my colleague Paula Bray earlier this year.

Here’s what I wrote. Some of this will be familiar to regular readers, some of it is new.

(Please also bear in mind that I am focussing here on predominantly economic/cost-related issues. Regular readers will know that our involvement in the Commons on Flickr has been largely driven by community and mission-related reasons – don’t take this post as a rebuff of those primary aims)

First a couple of things that are crucial for understanding the nuances of our situation (and how it differs, say from that of other institutions, galleries, museums)

  1. The Powerhouse is, more or less, a science museum in its ‘style’ (although not by our collection). Our exhibitions have traditionally, since our re-launch/re-naming in 1988, been heavy on ‘interactivity’ (in an 80s kind of way), and ‘hands on’. We aren’t known for our photographic or image collections and we haven’t done pure photographic exhibitions (at least for the last 15 years).
  2. Consequently we have a small income target for image sales. This target doesn’t even attempt to cover the salaries of the two staff in our Photo Library.
  3. In 2007/8 around 72% of our income was from State government funding.
  4. The Powerhouse has an entry charge for adults, and children aged 4 and over. In 2007/8 this made up 65% of the remainder of our income. Museum membership (which entitles free entry) added a further 8%.

(You can find these figures in our annual reports)

So what have we found by releasing images into the Commons on Flickr?

Firstly we’ve been able to connect with the community that inhabits Flickr to help us better document and locate the images that we have put there. This has revealed to us a huge amount about the images in our collection – especially as these images weren’t particularly well documented in the first place. This has incurred a resource cost to us of course in terms of sifting responses and then fact checking by curatorial staff. But this resource cost is outweighed by the value of the information we are getting back from the community.

Secondly we’ve been able to reach much wider audiences and better deliver on our mission. The first 4 weeks of these images being in Flickr eclipsed an entire year’s worth of views coming from the same images on our own website. Our images were already readily Google-able and were also available through Picture Australia which is the National Library of Australia’s federated image and picture search.

(I’ve written about this quite a bit on the blog previously.)

Thirdly, we’ve found that as very few people knew we had these images in the first place, we’ve been able to grow the size of the market for them whilst simultaneously reducing the costs of supplying images.

How has this ‘reduced the costs’?

What Flickr has done is reduce the internal cost of delivering these images to “low economic/high mission value” clients such as teachers, school kids and private citizens. Rather than come through us to request ‘permission’ these clients can now directly download a 1024px version for use in their school projects or private work. The reduction in staff time and resource as a result of this is not to be underestimated, nor is the increased ease o use for clients.

At the same time, Flickr’s reach has opened up new “high economic/low mission value” client groups. Here I am talking about commercial publishers, broadcasters, and businesses. Commercial publishers and publishers want a specific resolution, crop or format and we can now charge for the supply in these formats. At the same time we are finding that we are now getting orders and requests from businesses that had never considered us as a source of such material. We are actively expanding our capacity to deliver art prints to meet the growing needs of businesses as a result.

It is about relationships and mission!

At the same time, we can now build other relationships with those clients – rather than seeing them only in the context of image sales. This might be through physical visitation, corporate venue hire, membership, or donations.

Likewise, we know that the exposure of our public domain images is leading to significant offers of other photographic collections to the Museum alongside other commercial opportunities around digitisation and preservation services. Notably we have also been trying to collapse and flatten the organisation so that business units and silos aren’t in negative competition internally – so we can actually see a 360 degree view of a visitor/patron/consumer/citizen.

Conferences and event reports open content Wikis

Some thoughts: post #GLAM-WIKI 2009


Photography by Paula Bray
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0

(Post by Paula Bray)

Seb and I have just spent two days at a conference, in the nation’s rather chilly capital that involved a bunch of Wikimedians (wonder what that would be called) and members from the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries and Museum sector) sector. This event was touted as a two-way dialogue to see how the two sectors could work more closely together for “the achievement of better online public access to cultural heritage”.

So what do we do post conference?

GLAM-WIKI was a really interesting conference to be a part of even if some of us were questioning ‘why’ are we here. Some of the tweets on Twitter said that there is a need for some concise decisions instead of summary. I am not sure at this stage if there are complete answers and concise decisions will need to be made by us, the GLAMs.

Jennifer Riggs, Chief Program Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation summed it up quite well and asked the question “what is one thing you will do when you leave this conference?” I think this is exactly the type of action that can lead to bigger change. Perhaps it is a presentation to other staff members in your organisation, a review of your licensing polices and business models, a suggestion of better access to your content in your KPI’s or start a page on Wikimedia about what you do and have in your collections.

One of the disturbing things for me came from Delia Browne, National Copyright Director at the Ministerial Council for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Browne highlighted the rising costs the education sector is paying to copy assets including content from our own institutions. Delia stated that there is a 720% increase in statutory licensing costs and the more content that goes online the more this cost will increase. Now the GLAM sector can help here by rethinking its licensing options and look towards a Creative Commons license for content they may own the rights to, including things like teachers’ notes. Teachers can do so much with our content but they need to know what they can use. She raised the question “What sort of relationships do we want with the education sector”? The education sector will be producing more and more content for itself and this will enter into our sector. We don’t want to be competing but rather complimenting each other. Schools make up 60% of CAL’s (Copyright Agency Limited) revenue. What will this figure be when the Connected Classrooms initiative is well and truly operational in the “digital deluge” a term mentione by Senator Kate Lundy.

Lundy gave the keynote presentation titled Finding Common Ground. She brought up many important issues in her presentation including the rather awkward one around access to material that is already in the public domain. Lundy:

“These assets are already in the public domain, so concepts of ‘protection’ that inhibit or limit access are inappropriate. In fact, the motivation of Australia’s treasure house institutions is or should be, to allow their collections to be shared and experienced by as many people as possible .”

Sharing, in turn, leads to education, research and innovation. This is something that we have experienced with our images in the Commons on Flickr and we only have 1200 images in our photostream.

The highlight for me was the question she says we should be addressing “why are we digitising in the first place?”.

This is a really important statement and should be asked at the beginning of every digitisation project. The public needs fast access to content that it trusts and our models are not going to be able to cope with the need for fast dissemination of our digital content in the future if we don’t make it accessible. It costs so much to digitise our collections – so surely we need to ask this question first and foremost. Preservation is not enough anymore. There are too many hoops to go through to get content and we are not fast enough. “The digital doors must be opened” and this is clearly demonstrated with the great initiative Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program presented by Rose Holley of the National Library of Australia.

However as Lundy said during the panel discussion following her presentation was “goodwill will have to bust out all over”. There is a lot of middle ground that the GLAM sector needs to address in relation to policy around its access initiatives and digital strategies and, yes, I think policy does matter. If we can get this right then the doors can be opened and the staff in organisations can work towards the KPI’s, missions and aims of unlocking our content and making it publicly available.

Perhaps your one thing, post GLAM-WIKI conference, could be to comment on the Government 2.0 Taskforce Issues Paper and ensure that all the talk of Government 2.0 clearly includes reference to the Government-funded GLAM sector.

Digitisation open content

Electronic Swatchbook version 2 – lots more public domain swatches, search by colour


We meant to launch our Electronic Swatchbook v2 last year but it got buried in a slew of server upgrades and other projects.

But here it is, now with nearly 2000 public domain patterns available for you to use and re-use. There are a whole lot of new swatches some dating as far back as 1837. And you can now search by colour.

Electronic Swatchbook initially launched way back in 2005. It was our first experiment with user tagging and also with releasing archival material into the public domain. The first iteration was always meant to expand but other projects got in the way.

Back then Electronic Swatchbook proved to us that, on the whole, you – the public – don’t come in and trash the place if we turn on tagging, and that releasing these materials as public domain gave these swatches new life, a new life that was often attributed back to the Museum (even though attribution wasn’t required). The comfort level that resulted led to the Powerhouse’s current range of online practices and pursuit of broader open access.

It should also be restated that the initial Swatchbook was, in part, a response to the demands of fashion design students to get access to the fragile swatchbooks for inspiration – a process that was time consuming, damaged the objects, and led to them being digitally photographed by lots of students.

Better to do this once and service them all. After all, that’s what digital is good at.

Since then we’ve noticed them appearing in all sorts of re-uses. And that warms the cockles of our hearts – and also provides good evidence of the worth of having the collection in the first place.

Giv Parvaneh (now at the BBC) worked on the original 2005 project when he was at the Powerhouse and again he helped on the rebuild and designed the ‘colour search’ feature. It works by analysing each swatch for a core set of colours – determined by breaking the original into smaller chunks then pulling the most dominant colours from each chunk. A colour hash for each image is stored in the database and this makes for quick cross-collection searching. As we add new swatches to the pot they need a once-only colour analysis.

(The site will be tweaked a bit over the next few weeks – the interface was never properly finished but here it is as a 80% done site – better late than never!)