Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Better Access to Images of Mark Catesby’s Work

We have updated our list of digital images of Mark Catesby’s Horti Sicci from the Sloane Herbarium, and his Natural History here:

This update takes advantage of new technologies for making these images more useful to a broad audience.

These digital images are served from the CITE Image Service, a technology developed for the Homer Multitext Project. The images and the service are hosted at the University of Houston’s High Performance Computing Center, thanks to the generosity and vision of Keith Crabb, its director.

The CITE Image Service provides canonical citation of images and regions-of-interest on those images. A “normal” request to the service has many parameters, allowing retrieval of images at different scales, portions of images, dynamic views of images, and various kinds of metadata. This can be complex, and complexity limits casual use.

Inspired by the Linked Ancient World Data Institute, an NEH funded event at New York University in the summer of 2012, my collaborators Neel Smith, Ryan Bauman and I have worked to make access to our data services more simple and more useful.

Each image in the Botanica Caroliniana collection is accessble via an HTTP-URI. That is, you can call up an image using something that looks like a normal URL. E.g.

“’ plus the canonical URN that defines the image.

This will invoke a “GetImagePlus” request, which will return:

* a view of the image…
* linked to a dynamic high-resolution view that you can zoom,
* its caption and statement of rights, and
* a link to the Image Citation Tool that allows scholars to generated URNs pointing to specific regions-of-interest on the image.

URNs that specify regions-of-interest work, too:,0.088,0.392,0.206

The data returned by these URIs is raw XML, and thus easily processed programmatically. The XML invokes a stylesheet that any modern web-browser will format for human readers and browsers.)

The goal is, as ever, to give access to our data that is as flexible as possible, that constrains users as little as possible, and that makes possible research that is serious or casual, human-centered or automated, according to the needs of individual scholars and readers.

(Of course, the raw data of these images is directly available at .)