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Published on December 5th, 2012 | by Adrian Stevenson


Notes from WW1 Discovery Open Mic at UK Museums on the Web 2012

I gave a four minute talk at the excellent UK Museums and the Web 2012 ‘Strategically Digital’ event last Friday. It was a great set of speakers, so I was really pleased to be part of the show. Although I’m a member of the Museums Computer Group committee that put on the event,  I wasn’t involved directly in the organisation of this one, so I’ll take this opportunity to congratulate my fellow members on putting on a fab event. I did at least play my part on the day as the official @UKMCG twitterer for the event #ukmw12 tag. See the UKMCG blog UKMW12 Roundup for lots more follow up including links to speaker’s slides, audio, blogs posts and more.

The session was recorded so I’ve added the audio to the embedded slide below. As I was presenting with a single slide to strict timing, I ended up writing a more or less complete script of what I intended to say to check my timing. Although I didn’t read it out as such, I think it’s quite a good summary of what we’re doing and where we’re up to, so I thought it might be useful to share that here too:

“Hello. My name’s Adrian Stevenson, and I’m a Technical Coordinator from Mimas, a national centre for innovations and data services based at the University of Manchester. Mimas has a number of services in the archives and libraries space, and is increasingly getting involved in museums and cultural heritage generally through various activities such as this project.

This screenshot here is from the blog home page for the WW1 Discovery project that I’m managing. The address is  We started around Feb 2012 and are due to complete very soon.

The project one liner is that “The WW1 Discovery project aims to make resources about the Great War more discoverable, and find new and innovative ways to present this content for the benefit of education and research” as on the slide here.

So that’s quite open ended sounding. What this actually means in practice is that we’re a
project aiming to exemplify the principles of something called the Discovery initiative funded by JISC, in this case around the subject of World War One.  Discovery is essentially about two things, promoting ‘open’ in terms of open data and open licenses, and using aggregation and aggregated data to facilitate improved resource discovery. To this end Discovery has a set of underlying technical principles that have orientated our development work. The overall aim is to demonstrate ways in which content can be presented to people and machines to maximise opportunities for educational and research innovation.

WW1 Discovery is a proof of concept project that’s creating an overlay API drawing in data on the Great War from a variety of library, archive and museum (LAM) sources including the National Maritime Museum, Imperial War Museums, the V&A, Oxford Great War Archive, the British Library, and a number of other Discovery projects, as well as other more general aggregators such as Europeana, CultureGrid and the Archives Hub.

If you’re not sure what an API is, it stands for ‘application programming interface’ and is a kind of back door for machines that some websites and services offer in addition to the human user interface ‘front’ door. Not many library, archive or museum institutions have APIs, especially museums in fact, – this has been one of our big challenges.

There’s information on the first release of the API detailed on our blog. It is very much a first release at the moment, and we do have issues to solve, in particular relevance ranking across the data sources. This is proving to be a major challenge, and is something that I’m not sure is solvable in a valid way given the data we have access to.

We’re also working with two suppliers, ‘We Are What We Do’ who produce Historypin, and ‘Mickey & Mallory’ to produce a couple of user interfaces providing examples of the sort of things possible with aggregated open data. Again, the aim here is to demonstrate the Discovery initiative idea, finding new and innovative ways of presenting content to enhance education and research. We should be finished and releasing these very soon, so please check on the blog or keep your eye on twitter.”

WW1 Discovery Open Mic Talk from Adrian Stevenson
Images from the UKMCG Flickr Pool.

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