Map the Museum — a note from the developers

posted in: Blog, Digital, Guest Author, Map the Museum | 2

The first version of the website goes live today, and we would love you to play with it, place some objects on the map, and let us know what you think.

Over the coming months we aim to improve the site by listening to feedback, adding more features and improving some of the existing ones as well as adding more and different kinds of content.

How We Made the Website

Rather than developing the whole of Map the Museum from scratch, many of the features are provided by software that is available elsewhere on the Internet. Doing it this way means that – rather than reinventing the wheel – we are able to make something simple very quickly, find out how the audience uses it and then change and improve it. We will also put the code for the website in a repository called github, making it available to other institutions and software developers who want to create similar website.

Rather than using Google Maps, which lots of people are familiar with, for this first version we have used Polymaps, a tool produced by Stamen, a design and technology studio in New York, and SimpleGeo, a location service that runs many popular mobile applications.

This is because we wanted flexibility to really think about how someone could interact with a map to place an object on it. The obvious place to start this would be in Google Maps, but with that you’re limited to place markers and pop-ups that are more designed around navigation from place to place.

Polymaps is designed for displaying visualisations of data in unusual ways, and since we don’t yet know all of the next steps for Map the Museum, we decided to keep our options open and opt for that flexibility. It uses Scalable Vector Graphics for display, which is an under-used but very powerful tool for displaying information in a browser.

We’re very excited about what can be done using Polymaps, CloudMade, which we’re using for the mapping tiles, and Open Streetmap (which we’re also investigating) and what can be achieved with these kind of interfaces to museum collection data.

Rachel Coldicutt, Caper, and Stef Lewandowski

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