Sunday, 10 July 2011

Visualisation of the Arts

I was in London earlier this week to present a paper at the Electronic Visualisation and the Arts conference (EVA 2011) co-sponsored by the Computer Arts Society and BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. EVA  focuses on the development and application of electronic visualisation technologies, including art, music, dance, theatre and the sciences and I was asked to go along to talk about the work we have been doing with Deep Visuals Ltd and Anglia Ruskin University to develop new ways of presenting hidden collections. 

We demonstrated ViziQuest, which has been developed using resources from the Polar Museum, Library and Archive. A touch screen version is installed in the Museum for visitors to browse photos from the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, but an online demo is also available.

Screen shot from the ViziQuest demo

Deep Visuals approached me with a request for resources to be tested for a new product under development using an East of England Development Agency grant. I got involved because the initial project tied in closely with my classification research interests and it was immediately obvious that it had the potential to provide a new means of access to large photographic collections for museum visitors. I had already developed the underlying ontology, which enables the browser to select linked images of interest without the need to type in keywords, as part of our Freeze Frame project, where it forms a basis for the image subject metadata.

If you'd like to know more, you can read the preprint, Semantic Browsing: A New Way to Explore and Discover Heritage Treasures. I'd welcome some feedback. We've gone on to develop an extension of the program for schools use and added extracts from film and sound archives, as well as images from manuscripts to a second image set, created to accompany a special exhibition on the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-37. We'll be looking at ways of using the web version as we begin to develop a new web site for the Polar Museum later this summer.


I've had a few days away in sunny Yorkshire (my 23 Other Things this week included 'take time off work' and 'go for a long walk', so 10 miles of the Dales Way between Bolton Abbey and Grassington ticked both boxes). Coming back, I realise that I hadn't given 23 Things any thought at all while I was away, so there is some catching up to do.

Downloading Lightshot is about as simple as it gets and using it really is as straightforward as the site suggests. Here's my first screenshot. (Yes, yet more lantern slides!)

Lantern slides depicting George Strong Nares' 1875-76 British Arctic Expedition

I suspect that I'll use this quite a lot, since it makes very short work of adding and editing graphics.

Friday, 1 July 2011


  • Just looking into the extra things for this week, it strikes me that Twitterfeed will come into its own once we begin blogging in earnest from the Museum. As SPRI's library is for reference only, I struggle to think of ways in which we might usefully blog or tweet - there doesn't seem to be enough news to warrant doing this at present, and we see a good many of our users in person every day. The Museum, on the other hand, has over forty thousand visitors a year and a programme of exhibitions and outreach activities for which their is an eager audience, so it makes sense to use as many means as possible to reach them.

Tweets, chirps and hoots

Twitter is undoubtedly my favourite thing so far. We have been using it for a couple of months to promote the Polar Museum @polarmuseum and are rapidly heading for 200 followers. I've been amazed at how rapidly a following develops, but having the University of Cambridge retweeting us regularly has helped. You can follow us at!/polarmuseum.

I've been using Hootsuite to schedule our Daily Polar Photos (great for doing several weeks worth at once) and also love its ShrinkLinks feature, having used both and in the past. It's also interesting to see how much faster it is to post stuff using an iPhone rather than my desktop (maybe time for a new PC?) None of this would have been half as easy without our very own Twitter Tsar (or Chief Twit, as she claims to be known). Having an under 25 on the team means instant access to someone who knows their way around social media.

Twitter is easy enough to be addictive and is one of the tools that has had an impact professionally. It's important to keep an eye on the feed, however. We get occasional questions or comments from followers which need a reply, so if you do start using it to promote a service, I'd suggest ensuring that you have a team prepared to provide cover.