Smithsonian online collections


Pursuing my thoughts around Google personalised home pages pages I was reminded about some software that Alex (I think) introduced me to a couple of years ago. It was called the Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus and a Alex was musing on how it might prove to be a useful approach to navigating online communities.

The Smithsonian Institute were also playing with this software and since they have come on somewhat. It is well worth a look at the approach they are taking to putting their collection online. You can see how they link images of their artefacts and descriptions/stories about them within a themed and temporal framework.

If they moved a stage further and allowed us to get at the data and tool itself so that we could re-purpose and add our own content then they would really have something interesting along the lines of the BBC Sare It Project that is making content available for us to reuse and re-purpose.

I am sure that meta tags do all of this automatically for the Smithsonian but I need more.

Take these ideas of and produce a personalised ‘portal’ that gives me control of these features and enables me to make sense of my online world. This is what I really want from the likes of Google homepage. That is the ability to create my own visual map of my online world that gives me the ability to:
– categorise
– make connections
– have a sense of time
– allow access to different parts of my online world to friends, and the world at large

The Smithsonian project reminds me of two things:
1. Tracy Emin quilts that have large embroidered words that stand out at a distance and as you move closer in smaller and smaller patches of text come into view revealing a rich detail of thoughts and ideas – brilliant stuff!

2. Every Object Tells a Story . An Ultralab project with the Victoria and Albert Museum where members of the public are encouraged to share their own stories about V&A artefacts and also share their own artefacts and stories online

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