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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Saturday, May 03, 2008

PhotoLondon, genealogists and GEDCOM

Since I discovered that at least one family history website was sending users in the direction of the newly belatedly launched "Database of 19th Century Photographers and Allied Trades in London: 1841-1901", I've been thinking more and more about how we can serve this audience.

GEDCOM (for which I guess this is effectively the official homepage) seems to be the data standard of choice for interoperability in genealogy software. The latest non-XML version dates to 1995, but although its mormon keepers have been using the XML form for several years now (it was published in 2002) apparently none of the software out there in general use supports it still. How tragic is that? I guess in the museum world we're not quite the worst example of data standards paralysis! Anyway, if it had to be that which I would offer to the millions of family historians out there, so be it. It would make a lot of sense, though, to talk to that audience a bit, which I started to do on this thread. Useful feedback, not just on the worth of offering GEDCOM at all, but reminding me also of various things I'd forgotten (maybe overlooked) about that site. Copyright, sources, addresses (we have lots more structured data than is visible there), all things we could improve (given some resources).

It all ties in with an announcement this week from Stephen Brown to the MCG and MCN lists of the launch of Exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society 1870-1915. The data in this (and an earlier site) seem so congruent with the photoLondon data that it would be lovely to explore how they might be tied together. A case for large or small semantic web, for feeds and APIs, for literally pooling data, for imaginative use of search engines or god old fashioned web content creation and management...I don't know, but perhaps we'll explore this. And now I've remembered that some of our data is more precise and structured than I had recalled, perhaps the possibilities are that much greater.

Now to get stuck into some GEDCOM. I might succumb to the XML flavour, though because frankly that 5.5 version looks like a dog.

1 comment:

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