London, United Kingdom - April 23, 2009 - Last week Box UK's Technical Director Dan Zambonini presented hoard.it: Stealing your data at the Museums and the Web conference to over 100 professionals representing institutions from around the world.

The presentation was based on a paper co-written with Mike Ellis of Eduserv. The project began with the creation of a prototype website (http://hoard.it/) that aggregates permanent collection-related data from a number of museum websites. Once assembled, the site enables users to search and map collections from diverse institutions with no investment from participating museums – nor does it seek their input or consent. The outcome is a single, albeit rudimentary, tool that allows users to search for collection-related content from museums around the world.

The hoard.it site currently contains 70,000 objects from 15 different websites. The system was built as a generic template-based screen scraper, which allows all kinds of data to be gathered to help shed light on collecting practices. Once all the data was in one place and in comparable formats, it was mined to examine trends. From the museums included, about 65% of the objects originated from Europe, with about 15% each from Asia and North America and 5% from Oceania. North American museums were found to collect more local objects then their European counterparts, with museums in Oceania having the most diverse or international collections.

Apart from collecting and mining the information, a simple API was created so that anyone could query the data. Using the API, a number of experimental applications were created, including a timeline/map mash-up and a tile-based quiz game. The API was also heavily used at the UK Museums on the Web conference, where it was often mashed up with data from other APIs or passed into other services like the Yahoo Term Extractor.

According to Dan Zambonini, the fluidity and accessibility of data – in this case collections data – on the web is one of a number of inter-related changes occurring online that museums need to react to. As a result of the availability of data throughout the web, museums and collections projects need to examine how they can provide value and context while focusing on the needs of their users to provide relevant and useful online services.

“To create well executed, service-based systems, we need to take a new approach. We need to spend less time thinking of original ideas, and more time thinking how we can better address existing needs beautifully,” said Zambonini. A recent example of a well-executed project he sited is Art Babble, an online video project intended to showcase video art content in high quality formats from various sources and perspectives conceived and built by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Museums and the Web is an annual, international conference that addresses the social, cultural, design, technological, economic and organisational issues of culture, science and heritage online. Taking an international perspective, senior speakers with extensive experience in Web development review and analyze the issues and impacts of networked cultural, natural and scientific heritage. Twitter was used quite actively at the conference and relevant tweets can be followed using the tag #mw2009 using the Twitter Search. The next conference takes place in April 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

About Box UK
Box UK (http://www.boxuk.com/) was established in 1998 and is privately owned. With offices in London and Cardiff, we are obsessed with the Internet and emerging technologies. Our international reputation allows us the privilege of working with the world’s best people, from FTSE 100 to international standards bodies and leading organizations across the UK public and heritage sector. Our belief in the potential of the Internet permeates everything that we do, continually inspiring us to employ its value as a communication and sales medium. We recruit only the smartest people the market has to offer and as a result, our clients benefit from working with leaders and innovators. Our leading Web Content Management System Amaxus manages hundred of websites including The Royal Navy, Tombraider, English Heritage and Visit Wales.

About Dan Zambonini
Dan Zambonini is the Technical Director of Box UK, which he co-founded. Since then, he has helped develop the first XML website for the UK Government, architected the Amaxus Content Management System, conceived clickdensity (multiple award-winning usability software), participated in industry-shaping thinktanks, and had articles featured in international websites and magazines.

Dan is passionate about making use of the latest technologies to help us in everyday life, and believes people and communities are key to innovation. He co-founded the Cardiff Web Scene community, organised the first Cardiff Tweetup, and helped bring the popular Ignite event format to the UK through Ignite Cardiff. Dan can be found on Twitter at http://twitter.com/zambonini.

About Eduserv
Eduserv (http://www.eduserv.org.uk/) is a not-for-profit IT service organisation. Their mission is to realise the benefits of IT for learning and research. They are dedicated to developing effective technology solutions that meet the needs of universities and colleges and are of value to the wider public sector.

About Mike Ellis
Mike Ellis worked for 7 years as Head of Web for the National Museum of Science and Industry, UK, which comprises the Science Museum in London, Media Museum in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in York. Mike left NMSI a year ago and is now working as a consultant for a Bath-based company called Eduserv, a not for profit IT services group.

His interests are in user generated content, Web 2.0, ubiquitous computing and innovation and how to lever these for maximum benefit in cultural institutions.

In a single sentence: Mike believes that technology could and should be better to people, but that it will only make life better when it becomes more invisible: easier to use, more user-centric and better designed.

In his spare time, Mike eats crumpets and curry, drinks cider and hangs out with his wife and two boys. He also writes electronic music, keeps a blog and dreams of web apps that make the world a better place. Mike is also on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/dmje – his other stuff is at http://variousbits.net.

For more information please visit the Box UK website at http://www.boxuk.com, call us at +44 (0)870 707 0031 or email info@boxuk.com.

Published on: 2:18PM on 23rd April 2009