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Useful APIs for Museums and Galleries

Page history last edited by Mia 7 years, 9 months ago Saved with comment

The Museum APIs and Cool stuff made with cultural heritage APIs pages are useful for listing other Museum/Gallery APIs, but an excellent way of demonstrating the power/value of APIs is to highlight non-museum specific APIs that we can use to expedite the development and reduce the complexity of museum projects.


Getty Vocabularies as Linked Open Data

Hoorah, the first of the Getty vocabularies has been published as linked open data. The Art & Architecture Thesaurus® (AAT) is now available. The Union List of Artist Names® (ULAN), the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names® (TGN), and the Cultural Objects Name Authority® (CONA) are to follow. Released with a SPARQL endpoint under a Open Data Commons Attribution License.


For an example of what this might mean for collections management in museums, read Richard Light's post on Using AAT as a Modes web termlist.


If you're not familiar with the terms in the various vocabularies, I've collected links to:


Matthew D. Lincoln has visualised the Hierarchies of the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus so you can explore it in your browser. Vladimir Alexiev ‏shared a link to an AAT term visualised with lodlive.it.


SPARQL endpoint at vocab.getty.edu

'AAT is a structured vocabulary, including terms, descriptions, and other information for generic concepts related to art and architecture'.


Earlier text explains, the 'sequence was chosen to take advantage of the way the vocabularies are connected: AAT is linked to itself; TGN [Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names] pulls from AAT; ULAN from AAT and TGN; and CONA from all three. We also intend to publish LOD versions of our lookup lists (e.g., languages, roles, nationalities, place types, and bibliographic sources'.


DBPedia now available as CSV tables

Not a vocabulary in the formal sense, but a useful resource if you want to do things like named entity recognition.

'As some of the potential users of DBpedia might not be familiar with the RDF data model and the SPARQL query language, we provide some of the core DBpedia 3.9 data also in tabular form as Comma-Separated-Values (CSV) files, which can easily be processed using standard tools, such as spreadsheet applications, relational databases or data mining tools.


For each class in the DBpedia ontology (such as Person, Radio Station, Ice Hockey Player, or Band) we provide a single CSV file which contains all instances of this class. Each instance is described by its URI, an English label and a short abstract, the mapping-based infobox data describing the instance (extracted from the English edition of Wikipedia), and geo-coordinates.'


There's also a useful Inventory of FLOSS [Free/Libre/Open Source Software] in the Cultural Heritage Domain and a list of open data tools from the Open Data Institute including Web Data Extraction Tools, Excel/CSV/Tabular Data Extraction Tools, JSON and XML storage, triplestores, semantic analysis, visualisation and publication tools.


Text Processing and Tagging


Name/Link Method Description
Calais REST and SOAP

"The Calais Web Service allows you to automatically annotate your content with rich semantic metadata, including entities such as people and companies and events and facts such as acquisitions and management changes."

Useful for extracting taxonomic terms (people, places, organisations, events, etc) from text, but works best with larger (multiple paragraph) chunks of text. Requires (free) API key.

Yahoo! Term Extraction  REST 

"The Term Extraction Web Service provides a list of significant words or phrases extracted from a larger content"

Similar to Calais, but doesn't use a global/pre-defined taxonomy of terms; instead returns 'non-noise' words from a chunk of text (with estimated 'score/weightings). Unlike Calais, can be used on shorter sections of text. Requires (free) API key.

Amazon Mechanical Turk SOAP Not exactly a text processing/tagging service, but a service for sending 'manual' jobs to people (a 'distributed taskforce') via an API; often used for tagging images or cleaning/checking text. From the website: "Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk web service enables companies to programmatically access this marketplace and a diverse, on-demand workforce. Developers can leverage this service to build human intelligence directly into their applications."



Location and Geo


Name/Link Method Description
Yahoo! GeoPlanet REST  Pass in any string of text containing a country, city, town, postal code, area (etc), and the API will return long/lat co-ordinates for the location, as well as the continent/country/city/etc in a pre-defined taxonomy. Requires (free) API key.
LinkedGeoData REST API, SPARQL endpoint LinkedGeoData is an effort to add a spatial dimension to the Web of Data / Semantic Web. LinkedGeoData uses the information collected by the OpenStreetMap project and makes it available as an RDF knowledge base according to the Linked Data principles. It interlinks this data with other knowledge bases in the Linking Open Data initiative.



'MapIt is a service that maps geographical points to administrative areas. This edition is based on source data from the totally amazing OpenStreetMap project, so add your boundaries there if they’re missing. If you’re in the UK our MapIt UK with open Ordnance Survey data will probably be more useful.


MapIt is useful for anyone who has the co-ordinates of a point on Earth, and who needs to find out what country, region, city, constituency, or state it lies within. It’s also great for looking up the shapes of all those boundaries.


Non-commercial, low-volume use of this service is free – read more.'

From the lovely MySociety.



Makes geocoding as simple as 'Copy and then paste your location data'



Dates and Times


Name/Link Method Description
Date Normaliser REST  Pass in a date or date range (e.g. 1980-03, 17th Century, 200-100 BC), and the API will return a simple XML string that normalises the date into ISO 8601 style. Currently unsophisticated/fairly limited.



Data Sources


Name/Link Method Description
Freebase REST, CSV Data Dump A huge resource of many crowd-sourced granular data sets, including artists, places, paintings and historical events.
dbPedia REST, CSV Data Dump All the structured data (e.g. the infoboxes, which include artists, events, places) from Wikipedia.




Name/Link Method Description
Finnish Ontology Library Service ONKI   Browse or search for ontologies and vocabularies. The ONKI is provided as a part of the ONKI Living Lab - an open lab for testing the latest semantic web technologies in practice, with real users like you. Currently, over 10 000 people are using ONKI each month.
3scale REST Already have a Museum API? 3scale will help you manage, track/monitor and even bill/charge for use of your APIs.
Mashery ? Similar to above (3scale).
Amazon Web Services Various Most Amazon Web Services (e.g. EC2 for Hosting/Computing Power, S3 for Storage) can be accessed via an API, allowing you to programmatically create and manage your virtual instances, data, etc.
Google Analytics REST Access and manage your analytics data via an API.
Feedburner REST Manage and track your RSS usage with the Feedburner API.




LODE: An ontology for Linking Open Descriptions of Events

  This document describes an ontology for publishing descriptions of historical events as Linked Data, and for mapping between other event-related vocabularies and ontologies.




[Mia - I've moved this from the 'Other APIs' page so it can be specifically about museum APIs but haven't had time to put them into Dan's schema above. #halfarsedtidyingeffort]


UK Civil Service Job Service API http://beta.civilservice.gov.uk/developers/index.aspx


"...we have developed a Civil Service Job Service API for government departments to use and incorporate onto their own website."  The page lists requirements, licensing, methods (with sample output), exception and invalid requests (with examples of error output).



lolcats API

[Yes, really] http://icanhascheezburger.com/2009/01/26/api-contest/ "Most people know us as a picture + caption site, but we’re building out a platform that allows anyone to create, vote on and feature mashups of photos and whatever else you can think of."  

Our current beta API allows the following:

  • Upload new photos for captioning, or mashing up.
  • Upload already captioned photos and meta data.
  • Authenticate Cheezburger accounts.
  • Get a feed of top-rated images.
  • Get a feed of uncaptioned images.
  • Run caption contests for any particular picture


Open Library API


"The Open Library is a project of the Internet Archive. Its goal is to create an online catalog that contains one web page for every book ever published. To do this, it accepts data from a variety of sources: libraries, publishers, book-sellers, and individuals."


And there's a sandbox - what an excellent idea.


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