Earlier this year we published our first few datasets under the banner of the Queensland Government Open Data initiative. For those who are not familiar with the term Open Data it is used to describe knowledge “…that is free for anyone to access, use, modify, and share…”. 1 Not surprisingly, cultural institutions have increasingly been joining the global movement for Open Data by opening up their databases to share and enable research, learning and innovation and this is because an underlying principle of Open Data deeply resonates with cultural institutions, that is, access for all.
So in the spirit of open-ness, we published eleven datasets on the Queensland Government Open Data portal to be updated annually. While modest compared to our friends at the Queensland Museum and the State Library of Queensland, who are involved in exciting things like mashups (see an example of a mash up below), Library:/Hack and GovHack, we are eager to contribute to the OpenGLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and expand on what we have published and we would like your help. We want to know what interests you and what kind of data you might like to use, re-use and re-distribute if you had the opportunity.
So far, we have published metadata relating to the artworks and artists in our Collection, attendance figures since the opening of architect Robin Gibson’s iconic Queensland Art Gallery building in 1982, and major exhibition attendances since the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in 2006. The API (application programming interface) for screenings at the Australian Cinémathèque and upcoming public programs are also up there amongst other things.
But there is a lot more we could do which is why we are asking anyone who is interested in making things with (or generally curious about) data, to have a look and let us know how we can improve what is already there and suggestions for potential data to release, and we will endeavour to make it available in accordance with our Open Data Strategy.
You might be wondering what this has to do with art? Well, there is an interesting parallel to me made with some contemporary art practices. Take Claude Closky’s work Untitled (NASDAQ) 2003 which we had on display at the exhibition, ‘21st Century: Art in the First Decade”. Visitors to the gallery were towered by what appeared to be infinite columns of stock market figures. These lists of numbers in black and white represent the digital marketplace and our dependency on these often invisible figures, working silently in the background. Artists like Closky give presence to the transactions and informational flows going on around us, shedding light on the sheer wealth of data at our fingertips. Another example is the artwork Off shore accounts – II 2006 by Rashid Rana is another example of how the artist uses, re-uses and re-presents information, using pixilation as a means of abstraction.
To give you an idea of what is possible using Open Data, check out the visualisations of the Tate Collection by Florian Kräutli. Or if you are in the area, pop into to the exhibition ‘CUSP’ at the State Library of Queensland to see amazing data visualisations by Greg More and other design possibilities.
There are challenges faced by cultural institutions, including QAGOMA, to not only release data but also create spaces for communities to engage with the data. This is articulated in the article “Where next for open cultural data in museums?” by Mia Ridge, PhD candidate in Digital Humanities in the History department at the Open University. Not to mention the legitimate frustrations described in “So you want to reuse digital heritage content in a creative context? Good luck with that.” by Melissa Terras, Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and Professor of Digital Humanities in the Department of Information Studies at University College London (UCL).
We are working to overcome these challenges and part of this process is reaching out and asking questions. So if you have some ideas about how we might improve our Open Data or would like more information about the project please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or if twitter is more your thing @rpwillink.