Discovering without searching: Manly's historical images 

Gone the uninspiring blank 'search' box, and in its place, an inviting gateway to our library collections. As part of a research project funded by the State Library of New South Wales and supported by the Manly Library, Mitchell Whitelaw has used collection data from the National Library of Australia's Trove API to create an experimental web interface for the Manly Local Studies Image Library. This set of approximately 7,000 images documents the history of the Manly area from the 1800s to the 1900s.

Essentially Whitelaw has taken the elements of search and discovery that keep us so fascinated by sites like Pinterest, eBay and Amazon, and applied them to the ordinary library catalogue. Collection items are presented in groups according to their title or date, with each group represented by a 'tile' or thumbnail picture. The size of the tile reflects the number of items in that group. Hovering over the tile will reveal a list of relevant search terms, and clicking it will unveil a series of images.  Selecting any one image will open a larger view containing details of the full record both in Trove and at the Manly Library.

The interface has been designed to encourage exploration and serendipitous discovery of library collections, rather than relying on library users to know exactly what they are looking for.

Associate Professor Mitchell Whitelaw was a keynote speaker at the ALIA Biennial Conference in Sydney in July 2012, where he presented his work on data visualisation and digital design. His experimental prototype for the Manly Local Studies Image Library can be viewed here:

[NB The interface works best in Firefox, Chrome or Safari]


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