Opening up museum collections with RSS

The Queen Mary arriving at Southampton
BHC2492 The Passenger Liner ‘Queen Mary’ Arriving at Southampton, 27 March 1936
(Repro ID: BHC2492 © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London)

Last week, Mike Ellis posted about RSS feeds in museums. Specifically, how useful it would be if search results were available as newsfeeds. After a bit of tinkering around, and a fair amount of swearing at catalogue descriptions written in the Windows extended character set, I’ve now set up feeds for the National Maritime Museum collections. If your web browser supports RSS, then you should be able to find a feed on almost any page that generates a list of catalogue records. Here are some examples – a search for ‘tower bridge’; objects from the Atlantic Worlds galleries; paintings and drawings by Charles Pears; photographs of the Aquitania; relics found at Erebus Bay. The collections search is also available via OpenSearch, which I’ve tested in Firefox and IE7. If your browser supports OpenSearch, then ‘NMM Collections’ should be available as a search engine from any page under http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/. This is really cool, as it opens up our collections to be used by any application that can consume RSS. I’ve also extended the news feed items with catalogue metadata using dc:coverage (publication info), dcterms:spatial (geographical coverage) and dcterms:temporal (date made), which opens up the possibility of plotting the objects on maps or timelines.