Reimagining Collections Data

May 16, 2013
A visual landscape of data about our collections. Created by Jeff Steward

Not too long ago, Jeff Steward set out to answer a question: How can data be visually rendered to reveal different types of collections activity over time? Solving complexities like this one—or, as Jeff describes it, “doing good things with interesting data”—is all in a day’s work when you head our Department of Digital Infrastructure and Emerging Technology.

To find the answer, Jeff used visualization software, web analytics, and data from our collections management tool to create statistical “landscapes” of activity around individual objects from May 2009 to February 2013. Data included the movement of art in and out of storage and from one venue to another, treatments performed in the conservation lab, and edits made to object records.

The result is a work of art in itself—and a great indicator of the rich and varied lives of the 250,000 objects in our collections.