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Data Visualization and Storytelling Around Museum Collections Using APIs

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Data Visualization and Storytelling Around Museum Collections Using APIs

The Spencer Museum of Art is using APIs to take large amounts of data and tell stories that relate to the history of the museum.

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I spend my days looking for interesting API stories to tell. Many days, I work real hard to find anything truly interesting, as there is a lot of repetition and reuse in the API space — both for good and bad. So when I find stories that reflect what I see in my mind when I think API, I’m always very happy.

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Photo Credit: The American Collection at the Spencer Museum of Art.

One of these stories is out of the University of Kansas where a fellow named James Miller has teamed up with museum staff as a faculty research fellow for the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) “to engage researchers across the sciences and humanities in hybrid projects,” said Joey Orr, the museum’s curator for research who coordinates fellowships for IARI. “We’re using database-driven visualization to tell the stories of the Spencer Museum of Art — from its original founding gift to all the items they’ve obtained since then.” He also says, “The term we like to use is ‘storytelling.’ We’re trying to take large amounts of data and tell stories that relate to the history and current impact of the Spencer.”

How are they going to do this you might ask? Well, APIs of course. They have developed an API on top of the Spencer Museum of Art database to enable visualization and storytelling. This is what I see in my head when I think API — not the waves of API startups I am seeing come across my desk. APIs allowing access to valuable resources, and enabling storytelling and discussion — this is API.

“One of our initial storytelling ideas relates to studying the impact of immigrants and the art they created after settling in the U.S.,” he said. “There are so many pieces in the collection by such artists, and it has been a fun exploratory project.”

Sorry for just posting a bunch of their quotes, but I thought it was worth sharing a few nuggets from the post. Head over to the University of Kansas to read more, and make sure and go check out some of the art from the Spencer Museum.

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