Thursday, 5 February 2009


Tyler Green's post The collection catalogue is dead, long live the catalogue piqued my interest this morning. In it Green writes about the Getty's project to move from print publishing to digital publishing for public access to its collection information.

From Green's post:

The Getty's project is ambitious: It aims to replace the expensive dead-tree scholarly catalogue with an open-source, web-accessible-to-all, digital catalogue format. For now the Getty is working with eight museums on the initial stage of the project: the Getty Museum, the Smithsonian's Sackler/Freer, SFMOMA, the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate, the Seattle Art Museum and LACMA.

Digital catalogues are nothing new, although the existing examples vary wildly in terms of the proportion of the collection that's available, the quality of the metadata and the usability of the interface. But the phrase in this quote that really interests me is open-source, because it indicates that the Getty will be releasing its cataloguing software for anyone to use and add to. However, while the 48-page report (note:PDF) the Getty has released contains many persuasive arguments institutions could use when trying to convince funders to stump up for online catalogues, and a lot of common sense (hey everyone - let's used standardised cataloguing terms!), it makes no mention* of the software being used or plans to release it to the wider community.

Tyler promises more info on the initiative tomorrow. The magic words I would like to see are: "the project includes releasing a public-access API'".

*Admittedly, I skim-read this and am very happy to be corrected.

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