Tuesday 10 March 2009

Giving it away.

Today I'm veering off briefly into techydom, so bear with me.

Late last week the Brooklyn Museum released a API, which allows people to display Brooklyn Museum collection images and data in their own applications. You can read more about the release and the reasons for it in this blog post. In it Shelley Bernstein writes:

So, how did we get here? Recently, I was presenting at a conference in Amsterdam along with Nina Simon and Mike Ellis. Mike’s highly entertaining presentation was about encouraging the public sector to consider releasing their data so that the community of developers worldwide could take advantage and create wonderful things with it. In Mike’s own words “if you love something, set it free” and that idea was something that resonated with me. Mike is a practical guy and he talked a lot about the stresses of staffing at cultural organizations, that we can’t possibly do it all ourselves and he wanted to spread the news of the potential in allowing outside developers the chance to add their own talent and wealth to our data.

It's hard to predict what might happen when you release an API like this. Wonderful things might appear, or equally you could be met with a resounding lack of interest. In the Brooklyn Museum's case, something wonderful has already popped up; a developer named David Wilkinson has built an alternative collection browser using Adobe Flex.

Typically, this is the point where I would bemoan New Zealand cultural institutions usual late-to-the-party behaviour. But late last year Digital New Zealand launched an API that brings together data from other 30 organisations, including museums, galleries, archives and libraries. In her post Shelley gave a hat tip to DigitalNZ for their work in this area, so this morning I'm feeling proud & hopeful.

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