The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Shape-Shifting and Sharing Data
When institutions archive data, they capture and organize it in digital formats that make the most sense to them, based upon their specific group of users, needs, and technical options that are available at a given point in time. But what happens if, for example, institutions decide that it makes sense to enhance their mission by their presenting data collections in less proprietary and broader contexts? How might they best pool and share data with institutional partners, including those who might choose to use or visualize it differently?
An article published earlier this month by FastCompany.com, suggests that a free software platform called “Recollection” currently under development by the Library of Congress, information architects, and a group of project partners, may make those goals more easily achievable.
"Abstract Green," Clay animation, courtesy of mamshmam.
The Recollection project is expanding upon institutional options for the circulation and re-formatting of information. As a result, huge and previously unwieldy database content will not only become available but will also be customizable. Information found in one institution’s Excel spreadsheet could, for example, be extracted and re-presented by a partnering institution in the form of a map, an interactive timeline, or as a tag cloud.
As another recent report about Recollection noted, the project both respects local decisions about the best ways to organize and store data and allows it to be imported and translated into other formats and, as a result, to be accessed by new groups of users. To see a sample of how that works, click here.