About Me

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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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

All change for the Imperial War Museum

...well, me at least.

I delayed this post a while whilst the paperwork got sorted out, but it's not been a secret for quite a while that I'm leaving the Museum of London next month (like, I told the world here). However even today a friend at work came up to me and whispered "I heard you're leaving", so for those other friends I've somehow not managed to tell, well, it's true.
It was 8 years ago in January that I began here in my first paid museum job, though I'd never imagined working with computers before starting my Museum Studies MA. It's very much time to leave now, and as luck would have it the perfect opportunity for me turned up at the right time - or as close to the right time as I could reasonably hope! After all, good digital media jobs in museums don't turn up all that often, and if you're looking for a little extra responsibility the choices are fewer still.
Which makes me feel all the more fortunate to have been given the chance to work as Technical Web Manager at the Imperial War Museum. I will be working for Carolyn Royston, who steered the huge and hugely challenging National Museums Online Learning Project through. She was appointed a year ago by the then-recently-installed director, Diane Lees, and since then she's been busy planning how to "put digital at the heart of the museum", assessing what the IWM has and how to move forward, and building a team fit for purpose. I feel lucky to be about to become a part of that digital team, which benefits from a strong vision and backing at the most senior level - not to mention an exceptional collection (both "real" and digitised).
My role, as I understand it (and I guess being new it will evolve plenty) will be some combination of programming and planning, developing a technical strategy to compliment the overall digital strategy, specifying infrastructure and so on. The IWM has some of key factors in place already (a decent DAMS, recently centralised collections databases), but the opportunities are plentiful for doing something fresh. I know that it also has a team of people that are itching to make that happen and I'm so looking forward to getting to know them and finding my place beside them.
I can't leave it at that without also saying how sorry I am to be leaving my friends at the Museum of London. I'm going to miss them. We have been through some real trials but somehow, despite unfair winds, we have managed to do some pretty good stuff, I think. I also regret having to take my leave at this exact point in time (well, in May) before I can fully see out two of the most significant projects I have been part of, and without a single in-house web developer to hand over to. I know that this will make life difficult for some of my most valued colleagues (as well as for the people who are responsible for the previous statement being true).
But whilst a couple of things may have to, well, not happen or not happen for some time, I should be around long enough to see our Collections Online system completed. If not then it won't be far off (thanks to Knowledge Integration), and the first public interface for it in our glorious new Galleries of Modern London should be in testing (thanks to Precedent).
So with only limited handover possible, I'm spending the last few weeks working on this project and wrapping up a few things that have been hanging on forever. Fingers crossed I can leave a few people happy that yes, it finally did get done.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Did I never blog this? Eejit! Here's the LAARC API

I have a feeling I never blogged about the existence of the LAARC API. Currently this is only simple search and we've not as yet "eaten our own dog food" i.e. rebuilt the LAARC catalogue site itself on top of this - that's waiting for the advanced search API, though I couldn't guess at a delivery date for that...
I think I'd meant to do a big explanatory post and since I didn't get round to that just never mentioned it. So for now I'll just get the word out and say, this is the work of Julia Fernee who re-engineered the whole back-end of the LAARC system to make it work sweetly, fixed stuff broken by a change to Mimsy XG, got digital downloads behaving again and ironed out various other un-noticed bugs. Ultimately it's all still based on the work of Sarah Jones and later Mia Ridge, but Julia's work now puts the database in a place where we can build from. Play with the API and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

LIDO references

I've had cause to send links about LIDO (Lightweight Information Describing Objects) to a bunch of people and every time struggle to find them because they don't float to the top in Google and, being PDFs, the Delicious bookmarklet doesn't cope with some of them so I hadn't put them there.
So anyway, if you're looking for a way in to LIDO, here are a couple of good references:
If you know any other resources worth adding, let me know. Also, your thoughts on where LIDO fits in and what its strengths and limitations are would be very welcome! The documents stress that it is a harvesting format rather than a full data exchange format, but is it actually perfectly good for this in many circumstances? If I choose to use it as the format for records coming out of our (forthcoming) API, will I be missing something important?
BTW I have now added these to Delicious the manual way: http://delicious.com/jottevanger/lido