Tuesday 4 November 2008

Visualising Repository Contents

Those who have followed this blog will know that I'm a sucker for a good visualisation that provides a helpful way of displaying and accessing the contents of a collection or a whole repository.

So I read with interest about cooliris, a convincing and polished implementation of the displaywall metaphor that works on media resources described in RSS feeds. Using XSLT I turned the XML export of an EPrints search result into the required MediaRSS format (making use of the eprint item thumbnails) and embedded it into a web page as a demo. The results are best viewed in their installable full-screen viewer rather than the web page-embedded Flash program, especially if the feed extends to thousands of objects!

This technique is obviously best for visually attractive items, rather than a wall full of text-based journal articles, and would probably form an accompaniment to a collection listing, rather than replacing it.


  1. My library school buddy, Josh Ranger, has been experimenting with visualization for digitized manuscript collections. He learned from his user studies that researchers were going quickly through folders of paper correspondence -- scanning for official looking letterhead and/or hand written notes.

    His thought was: "Why not make this possible for digital facsimiles?"

    He used PicLens -- which looks similar enough to CoolIris to make me think it's the same software with a new name.

    Anyhoo. Here's a link to Josh's Ada James set on Flickr:


    Great site, keep up the excellent work! I learned about you from Dorothea Salo.


    -Sally J.
    The Practical Archivist

  2. You're spot on - cooliris is a rebranding of PicLens. Their software allows you to have an alternative view/interaction with the objects on the web page. So when I navigate to Josh's Flickr page then I can see an alternative view of the documents as a picture wall.

    I think you bring out the important application of this visualisation - it allows our natural perception facilities to quickly and efficiently search for important visual features. Any repository task that is visual in nature can benefit from this. An open access example: checking for publishers' PDFs.