Map the Museum

posted in: Blog, Digital, Kevin Bacon, Map the Museum | 0

Map the Museum logo

Update 02/04/12: Map the Museum is now live!

Update 28/03/12: Map the Museum will go live on Friday 30 March.

We all know that maps are very useful. But they are not just a good means of finding our way around. They are also an effective means of presenting information, and helping to understand the places in which we live.

What if a map could tell us not just where things are in Brighton & Hove, but also what used to be there? How did a street once look? Who used to live there once? What sort of objects have people found there?

With the help of Caper, we are building a website that will help us create such a map. Map the Museum will allow users to browse through a selection of objects from our collections and pin them to a map of Brighton & Hove. The objects will initially be taken from our Fine Art, Local History, and Archaeology collections, and we will soon add some pieces from our Natural History collections. They will include prints, photographs, pieces of ephemera, objects made or sold locally, and items that have been excavated within the city. All will have a link to Brighton & Hove in one form or another.

Why do we need your help?

We don’t know everything. We have a good deal of expertise in various subjects, but we are very aware of how little we know about many other things. We believe there is a good deal of knowledge and expertise out there in the city, and we would like to tap into this. Also, the information we hold on our objects varies in both quality and quantity. Sometimes we know that an object has a link to Brighton & Hove, but we can’t precisely identify the link. For instance, we know that the photograph below was taken in Whitehawk in around 1930, but we don’t know exactly where it was taken.

Unidentified street in Whitehawk, c1930
Unidentified street in Whitehawk, c1930

Similarly, we know that the advertisement below was produced by a company based in Western Road. But where exactly in Western Road was it based? It’s not always an easy question to answer, especially if it is a long road and the building numbers have changed over the years.

Advertisement for Carter Bros. 173 Western Road, 1900-1910
Advertisement for Carter Bros. 173 Western Road, 1900-1910

But even where it is easy to locate an object, placing our objects within Map the Museum will allow us to harvest the information in a form that is very useful. Very little of the location data we hold about our collections is in a standardised machine readable form. If we can collect that data in a form that can be used in other applications, it can be put to many different uses. More importantly, this is data that we intend to share.

Open data, shared knowledge

The information gathered by Map the Museum will be published as open data. This means that it can be re-used by anyone else, free of charge. Hopefully, this will encourage others to develop applications using this data. With the enormous popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones, there are great opportunities for location data to be used creatively.

Once Map the Museum is launched, the images of the objects used will also be released under a non-commercial Creative Commons licence via our Image Store.

When will it be released?

Map the Museum will be launched before the end of this month. It will be released as a beta version: this means that although it will work, it should not be considered a final product. Our plan is to develop and modify the website in response to how people use it. In many ways, it should be considered an experiment. We are looking at new ways of using the web and other digital technology to engage people, and what we learn from Map the Museum will help shape our future online presence.

We are keen to to conduct some user testing of the site once we are ready to launch. Although we can’t yet confirm dates, please let me know if you would be interested in helping us test the site via the form below.

Kevin Bacon
Digital Development Officer

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