Mapping the collections
This week we added a new feature to Collections Online, our first efforts to map our collection objects, specimens and other resources. As you browse the collection, the Related Places section at the right of the page will generate a map of the places related to the collection item or resource – just click on the “show map” link to open up the map for that page.
For Humanities collections we are mapping where an object was made, depicts, was influenced by or refers to. We can map these because we catalogue our collections geographic associations using the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names, which often include the latitude and longitude of the place described. That means as we catalogue our collections as part of our acquisition, inventory or research, we are geo-coding the objects at the same time, at least down to the closest geographically named place.
There are limitations to this approach, for example it doesn’t go down to street level, and of course many of our collection objects are recorded simply as being made in “New Zealand”, the coordinates for which hover above the centre of the country. Not exactly accurate, but may provide some context for some objects. We’ll try to work through some of these issues, but they are inevitable for some of our objects, as we simply don’t have any more specific information about where they were produced.
Here’s a few examples of the mapping working in the different parts of Collections Online (don’t forget to click the “show map” link to the right of each page):
- Objects: Mapping the distribution of the Commonwealth countries referred to in this poster
- Objects: Mount Taranaki Try zooming in on the map and switch it to satellite view
- Themes: Tapa styles across the Pacific
- Places: For the TGN place records themselves, well, we show where the place is! E.g. don’t know where Waipawa is? Now you do!
- Person pages: Pictorialist photographer Richard Sharrell, born in Graz, Austria, died in Wellington, New Zealand.
For Natural environment, we’re using the map references (or more recently GPS coordinates) recorded as part of the collection of specimens on field collection trips. For example, this snail was collected on the Te Ringa track, not far from Russell in the Far North.
At this stage we can only map one object, specimen or resource at a time (though they may have multiple places related). Next step is to map multiple specimens, objects etc as this will help understand the distribution of a particular species, or the various places an artist worked for example. We’ll also look at how to try to work with more pin point geo-coding for non-named places, more like what you are used to on Google maps or Street View. But we hope this first step provides at least some more context to the collections and the people and stories that surround them.