The participatory museum


Several museums around the world have worked to make their data accessible, by providing free access to datasets, applying Creative Commons licenses to digital content or creating APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow programmers to build their own software on the museum’s data.

Detail on distribution of artworks in the Tate collection by birthdate of artists, visualized by Florian Krautli

Detail on distribution of artworks in the Tate collection by birthdate of artists, visualized by Florian Krautli

Last month, the Tate museums opened up their collection database to the world on GitHub, a website where programmers collaborate. The Tate are providing metadata about artworks and artists of their collection – over 70.000 artworks – in a computer language called .JSON, which is commonly used for data sharing and processing. Anyone can download the data and use it for their own purposes, subject to some simple goodwill guidelines. Nina Simon, executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and author of “The Participatory Museum”, found two interesting examples of visualizations created by GitHub from the Tate’s dataset:

The dimension of art, visualized by Jim Davensport

The dimension of art, visualized by Jim Davensport

“The Tate’s dataset is very rich and still of a manageable size – writes Florian Krautli. “As a first step, I wanted to get an overview of the distribution of the collection in time. I wanted to get a picture of the most important artists in the collection and their position in time. So I made a sketch in d3 which plots the artists as circles along a time axis and sizes them proportionally to the amount of works they have in the collection”.

Florian and Jim’s posts raise discussions and comments among the visitors and Nina Simon observes it’s simply awesome that museums’ data-sharing can cause people to have conversation about artists and artworks, irrespective of whether there are gaps or errors in those data or whether they are more or less interesting. “Opening up data is just the first big step to make it usable and useful – she writes. “These experiments promote new forms of collection, dissemination and analysis. Future iterations of data sharing and use will help institutions and citizen-participants take the next steps to make it meaningful”.

Read Nina Simon’s article 


Leave a Reply

Related Articles

Search in Europeana via the Toolbox realised within the E-Space Museums Pilot
The Toolbox of Europeana Space Museums Pilot is a web-based application designed for museum curators, that will allow them to create always brand new educational videos and promotional worksheets melting the museums/memorials contents with the cultural heritage available in Europeana, the European digital library. The first prototype was released and tested in the past months. Since the end of July 2015 the users of the museums subpilot Toolbox can search in Europeana for items and use them w...
Cultural Heritage and Open Data: a possible key?
According to the Open Knowledge Foundation, the core of the open data theory lies in the concepts of availability and accessibility through download and in the possibility to make modifications; in the concepts of re-use and re-distribution, also through interrelation with other data; in the concept of universal participation and the idea that anybody, be it general user or qualified operator, can use those data. Such recently-developed concepts have been applied in different domains and also in...
Citizen science for cultural heritage: ECSA webinar on October 26!
What kind of citizen science initiatives take place in the cultural heritage field? ·       How cultural heritage contributes to citizen science and civic engagement in general? ·       What lessons can be drawn for the relevance of social sciences and humanities to citizen science? On October 26 (16h-17h CET), it is organized a webinar “From mainstream citizen science to new conceptualizations: insights from the cultural heritage sector” to discuss these topics. The event belong...
CitizenHeritage presented at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin
CitizenHeritage will be presented at the online symposium Participatory Transcription Projects in Museums, Archives, Libraries - A Practical Exchange of Experience, by project partners Katerina Zourou and Mariana Ziku  (Web2Learn). The event is organized by the Museum of natural History in Berlin. The topic of the CitizenHeritage talk is "Transcribathons as citizen science projects: a comparative analysis of European initiatives", derived from the massive work done in the Citize...