free markets, free culture

Brooklyn Museum adds API; Matt Dickman explains API to marketers

with 2 comments

Museum gets it

Museum "gets it"

Matt Dickman is a techno-marketer — he explains, in plain English, technical terms that “confuse or intimidate marketers.”

Take API for example, one of the core tenets of web 2.0. There’s a lot of tech jargon behind this “Application Programming Interface” but Matt breaks it down in a 3-minute whiteboard video, “What is an API?”

Basically, an API gives people a “key” to a company’s data. Your API key lets you do what you want with the company’s data, within limits.

This is like Google giving you access to their maps, so people have the ability to make crazy maps that no self-respecting company would touch, such as “She Went of Her Own Accord”, a Google maps mashup comprised entirely of location-based jokes, i.e. place names that are puns.

Cool enough. And what if the company is a museum? What does an API bring to that organization and its marketing?

Enter the Brooklyn Museum, which this week launched an API of their collection. This API key consists of “a set of methods that return structured data and links to images from the museum’s collections.” It works nicely with “Tag! You’re It!”, the museum’s previous foray into tagging their online collection.

So, awesome, you get to mash up all the pretty art in the Brooklyn Museum’s collection. What’s the benefit from this kind of work?

Even the museum blog doesn’t pretend to know the answers:

There’s a wonderful X factor to all this—that we just don’t know what interesting something that someone will come up with—so it is exciting to wait and see. One thing we do know is people within our own industry have been working to create various pan-institution collection databases. By releasing our API, Brooklyn Museum data can now be included in these endeavors without requiring more staff time from us (something that would have been impossible prior to the API). The API offers us a way to share our data in a very democratic way—the work we do on the API can benefit all developers working with our collection online—not just major projects coming out of the non-profit sector.”

Lesson learned: APIs introduce the X Factor… hope you like surprises.

All images owned by Brooklyn Museum are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerviatives license.

All images owned by Brooklyn Museum are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerviatives license.


Written by @hellopanelo

March 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I love what the Brooklyn Museum has done! Though, can imagine the hours and hours spent photographing and documenting their collections…what an amazing way to share themselves with the world.

    Amy Chiu

    March 7, 2009 at 5:35 pm

  2. amy, i noticed some of the collection is available as thumbnails only, not the full image, out of copyright respect for the artist.

    of course, when you talk about museums sharing themselves with the world, Google once again stole the show with its Google Earth 3D rendering of the Prado museum…


    March 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm

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