A Designer’s Treasure Trove: 200,000 Objects from Cooper Hewitt’s Collection Digitized

Posted by: on October 21, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

Conservator setting up ceramic object for digital capture.© Smithsonian Institution.

Conservator setting up ceramic object for digital capture.© Smithsonian Institution.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has digitized and released more than 200,000 objects, and as you might expect from a prominent design museum, the collection is presented in a sharp and engaging interface. They’ve included extensive metadata for each object, which allows for an engrossing browsing experience. You can search and filter by a variety of facets, including color, size, and image complexity (beta). Each object also has a visual timeline of its life in the collection, from acquisition to digitization.

The site also includes an Experimental section with a few features that you can play with, including “Albers boxes”, an homage to the Bauhaus color-theorist:

“We show Albers boxes when an image can’t be found or when an image has not yet been digitized using the concentric squares as a device to convey some of the information about the object. The outer ring of an Albers box represents the department that an object belongs to; the middle ring represents the period that an object is a part of; the inner ring denotes the type of object […] We are trying to imagine a visual language that a person can become familiar with, over time, and use a way to quickly scan a result set and gain some understanding in the absence of an image of the object itself.”

For developers, they’ve also released an API, as well as the collections metadata and concordances for people dedicated to the public domain, under the Creative Commons CC0 license.

What’s maybe most impressive is that the collection was digitized in 18 months. For a glimpse behind the scenes, check out this video from Cooper Hewitt. And if you like to geek out in the weeds of things like project management and data mapping, you’ll want to check out Cooper Hewitt Labs, where Allison Hale is in the middle of a 4-part series of in-depth posts on the mass digitization, beginning with Workflows and Barcodes and Digital Asset Management.

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Posted by: on October 21, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized