Wednesday, November 10, 2004

New ARTstor plans are sounding better

In a presentation to the attendees at the National Institute for Technology & Liberal Education (NITLE) conference yesterday, ARTstor Executive Director James Schulman alluded to some new directions for the project that have me cautiously optimistic that we're going to get to a workable place.

My ARTstor critiques (rants?) about interoperability have been—by far— the most requested pages on this blog, so I assume that there's a critical mass out there who will want to know more information as it comes along.

There were two big news items for the visual resources community that I picked up from Schulman's presentation. First, ARTstor is working on a broader interoperability plan that involves expanded federated searching of other collections from the ARTstor interface. We'd already known from previous announcements that ARTstor was planning on exposing its meta-data to searching tools in other applications, which is good for researchers, but not a significant aide for the teaching and student study problems I've been focused on. The new indication is that they're working on API's that might allow other collection databases to expose their collections to a federated searching capability in ARTstor.

This is less than ideal: it will enforce the primacy of the ARTstor viewing tools and restrict choice for teachers about what tools they can use. I suspect that if the viewer stays good enough, we might have to grant ARTstor this point. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here. As Schulman suggested in his presentation, we can't let the great be the enemy of the good. It could be worse, after all. Without ARTstor we might soon all lose our choice anyway, but have Microsoft in the driver's seat instead.

The other big piece of news, though, was the Schulman described the inclusion of collection management tools into ARTstor as essentially "inevitible." If they're now developing a long-term strategy of building a soup-to-nuts (collection-buiding-to-classroom-display) application, the need for interoperability decreases for a good many institutions. Then your interoperability becomes a bigger strategy for re-using your public archives and legacy image systems.

The devil is in the details, of course, and we're still in the conceptual stages. Nevertheless, I came away from the meeting more optimistic that an acceptable course is being navigated. As I get more information, I'll pass it along here (and other places). If anybody else out there learns an interesting tidbit, please don't assume I already know it.

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