In this first installment of a two-part interview, Cooper Hewitt’s Micah Walter discusses the value of making a museum’s data more “open” and available for public use.

Opening Museum Data

Micah explains that the Cooper Hewitt decided several years ago to take the bold step of opening up its collection data via API and licensing it under a Creative Commons arrangement — meaning that a wide range of practitioners can leverage this data in a wide variety of ways. In this way, it set the standard of openness among other Smithsonian institutions.

Visualizing Data

Opening up Cooper Hewitt’s collections data means that a wide range of practitioners have enormous data sets with which to envision new projects. Among those projects are data visualizations that allow new views of the collections and their implications.

Finding New Applications

App developers have also taken an interest in the Cooper Hewitt’s data. Micah explains how one developer created a “Hot or Not” style voting application for museum objects.

The Cooper Hewitt’s Font

Even the Cooper Hewitt’s font was envisioned as another “open” component of the museum’s collection. It’s licensed with a Creative Commons license and any visitor to the museum’s website is free to download and use it.

Be sure to check out the Cooper Hewitt Labs blog — in it, Micah and others at the museum discuss technology and opening the museum collections.

Stay tuned for next week’s interview with Micah, in which he talks about the process of designing the museum’s more interactive format.