Powerhouse Museum to launch open access image repository

Powerhouse Museum to launch open access image repository

New online image bank will incorporate Gov 2.0 principles and social media

The Powerhouse Museum has moved to embrace Gov 2.0 principles, announcing plans to create an open-access image repository to showcase the organisations’ extensive image archive.

The portal will initially begin with about 5000 images and grow to include the museum’s glass-plate negatives collection, including some 7903 images from the Tyrrell Photographic Collection, which documents city and country life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Speaking ahead of her appearance at the Gov 2.0 Conference 2010 in Canberra this week, Powerhouse Museum manager, visual and digitisation services, Paula Bray, said the online archive, which will also grow to include some 50 per cent of all audio-visual content created by the Powerhouse Museum, was driven by Gov 2.0’s central premise of sharing information and engaging with citizens.

“We want [the portal] to be more than an image bank; we want it to be a social portal as well and it will be a place where people can give us feedback, create trails… a real social hub,” Bray said.

“Our philosophy is not only about making our content accessible to the public, but getting to know our audience; starting conversations. Audiences now really want to get to know the person behind the organisation… they want to participate not just online but on site.”

According to Bray a big part of embracing Gov 2.0 has been the use of commercial Web 2.0 tools, in particular photo sharing site Flickr, and creative commons licensing.

“In 2007 we realised we had all this photographic content that was just sitting on a server that we wanted to make it sharable and accessible so we started a Flickr account as we wanted to go to where the audience was,” Bray says.

“We just wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a channel for promoting ourselves, so we decided that the content we could release under creative commons we did and we joined the Flickr commons project.”

The project, Bray says, allows institutions to share their publicly held photographic content which is no longer under copyright. The Powerhouse, Bray says, was the first museum in the world to join the project — on 8 April 2008. The US Library of Congress was the second.

“We had no expectations of what people would do with our content but we knew there would be a lot of traffic,” Bray says. “Since then we have had two million views on 1700 images but for us it goes beyond the views; it is the connection we have made with this audience.”

According to Bray, the connection with audience has paid off with the Powerhouse’s community now volunteering to conduct research work that now adds to the museum’s knowledge of its own collection.

“They have been tagging, commenting, researching, identifying locations, doing incredible images because they are allowed to use them for free and with no restrictions,” Bray says. “It allows the audience to do citizen curation.”

The results of its audience interaction have given the museum the confidence to open up more of its collection and make it usable under two creative commons licences: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, and Attribution-NonCommercial., Bray says.

“That has led to us being able to give data to Gov 2.0 mash-up competitions,” Bray says. “We recently had 250 developers turn up to our Amped hack day and we had 64 [application programming interface] keys downloaded and 13 project produced with our content on the day.”

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