• Digital material culture and scaling up

    As a museum collections person, I’m very interested in providing broad access to collections artifacts, metadata and contextual information.  As a public historian of technology, what I do is facilitate and empower people to make meaning out of the stuff of the past.

    With the majority of museum collections in storage (as is true for pretty much every collecting institution), the web provides an expanded exhibit space with a radically expanded participant-audience. But digitization, and the analysis of digital material culture and its metadata, is more complicated than taking a picture. Art museums have done great work on digitizing their collections and making their data available for manipulation (cf the Brooklyn Museum’s collections API), but history museums are looking through a glass darkly.  Especially for large institutions with large, diverse collections (in terms of size, level of cataloguing, access in storage, etc), the challenges of workflow and process complicate the end-user questions about metadata and interface.

    Basically I’m interested in discussing the challenges and possibilities for big material culture digitization projects, like the one we’re planning right now at my museum.


  1. sikarskie says:

    I’d definitely be interested in talking with you about the Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org, which provides preservation and access for images and metadata for 50,000+ quilts. Looking forward to meeting you!

  2. sikarskie says:

    Also, have you heard about MATRIX’s new Digging Into Data project?: http://grants.matrix.msu.edu/did/

    This project deals with the scalability of large digital repositories of material culture and how researchers can effectively use such a vast amount of material culture data.

  3. Aditi says:

    Have you seen Flamenco, the browsing interface designed with large collections in mind? http://flamenco.berkeley.edu

    There are demos of the interface used on large collections there – the SF Museum of Fine Art, the UC Berkeley Architecture Image Library.

    The challenges of making navigation through a large collection understandable, flexible, and most of all, easy for a user is very interesting to me as a computer scientist – I’d really like to talk more about this.

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