This Q&A is the second in our collection of sixth birthday celebration interviews. We thought it was a good opportunity to check in with an organisation using the DigitalNZ's data, in particular our Application Programming Interface (API)*, so we had a chat with UC CEISMIC, a digital repository of information relating to the Christchurch earthquakes.
DigitalNZ were involved in the UC CEISMIC project from its early phases but initially simply provided inspiration and a few technical ideas from the sideline, encouraging us to explore as many options as possible. When our technical team designed the archive, we gave ourselves free rein and considered all potential approaches.
The more our investigations continued, though, the more we realized DigitalNZ was the obvious choice for this task. The fact they had an existing service that was fully integrated into New Zealand’s national digital infrastructure, including all of our Consortium partners, meant it was by far the most cost effective solution, as well as being the most technically elegant.
Given the time pressures associated with a post-disaster situation, having DigitalNZ available was crucial; it is very unlikely we would have had the time or resource to build such a solid national resource without their involvement. We built DigitalNZ into our favored solution option at a key information architecture meeting, consulted with technical teams from the UC CEISMIC Consortium to ensure it would work for them, and proceeded to design the entire archive around the service.
Image: 'Sydenham_24 December 2011', by Cecil, Christchurch Kete. CC-BY-SA. http://ow.ly/t8cH9
DigitalNZ has provided the technical backbone to the federated architecture of www.ceismic.org.nz, and has enabled the Consortium partners and other contributors to CEISMIC to collaborate and connect their individual earthquake archiving activities much more effectively and coherently than would have otherwise been possible.
Adding or editing content in the CEISMIC collection is all managed through the DigitalNZ API, so it requires very little additional work for us, and the DigitalNZ team are great about helping us to make changes when we need to. This means the UC CEISMIC partners can focus on their own particular collection strategies and policies, in the knowledge that the CEISMIC collection is well managed and can grow sustainably. We have also had great benefit through DigitalNZ's existing content partner relationships by linking to records already present in DigitalNZ to the CEISMIC collection.
DigitalNZ's great strengths are its relative agility and the flexibility it has to continually renew and improve its metadata harvesting and aggregation services.
You have a big job, no doubt, but the most exciting aspect I believe is the potential to add new types of metadata or provide services that drive new types of use through the DigitalNZ API.
It would be great to see DigitalNZ develop further in the areas of geospatial data and linking and reconciliation of entities like people and places. These are challenging domains, but there are potentially some great additional metadata services that DigitalNZ seem well placed to explore.
* The API is the huge data set that DigitalNZ brings together from the digital collections of organisations around the country, which is publicly available for other organisations, developers, and anyone with an interest, to play with and use to build new search solutions or fun applications. You can find out everything you need to know about the DigitalNZ API in the Developers section of our website.