In 'Community: From Little Things, Big Things Grow' on ALA, George Oates from Flickr says:
It's easy to get lost on Flickr. You click from here to there, this to that, then suddenly you look up and notice you've lost hours. Allow visitors to cut their own path through the place and they'll curate their own experiences. The idea that every Flickr visitor has an entirely different view of its content is both unsettling, because you can't control it, and liberating, because you’ve given control away. Embrace the idea that the site map might look more like a spider web than a hierarchy. There are natural links in content created by many, many different people. Everyone who uses a site like Flickr has an entirely different picture of it, so the question becomes, what can you do to suggest the next step in the display you design?
I've been thinking about something like this for a while, though the example I've used is Wikipedia. I have friends who've had to ban themselves from Wikipedia because they literally lose hours there after starting with one innocent question, then clicking onto an interesting link, then onto another…
That ability to lose yourself as you click from one interesting thing to another is exactly what I want for our museum sites: our visitor experience should be as seductive and serendipitous as browsing Wikipedia or Flickr.
And hey, if we look at the links visitors are making between our content, we might even learn something new about our content ourselves.
I've uploaded my presentation slides from a talk for the UK MultiMimsy Users group in Docklands last month to MultiMimsy database extractions and the possibilities for OAI-based collections repositories at the Museum of London.
The first part discusses how to get from a set of data in a collections management system to a final published website, looking at the design process and technical considerations. Willoughby's use of Oracle on the back-end means that any ODBC-compliant database can query the underlying database and extract collections data.
The paper then looks at some of the possibilities for the Museum of London's OAI-PMH repository. We've implemented an OAI repository for the People's Network Discover Service (PNDS) for Exploring 20th Century London (which also means we're set to get records into Europeana), but I hope that we can use the repository in lots of other ways, including the possibility of using our repository to serve data for federated searches.
There's currently some discussion internationally in the cultural heritage sector about repositories vs federated search, but I'm not sure it's an either/or choice. The reasons each are used are often to do with political or funding factors instead of the base technology, but either method, or both, could be used internally or externally depending on the requirements of the project and institution.
I can go into more detail about the scripts we use to extract data from MultiMimsy or send sample scripts if people are interested. They might be a good way to get started if you haven't extracted data from MultiMimsy before but they won't generally be directly relevant to your data structres as the use of MultiMimsy can vary so widely between types of museums, collections and projects.