Open Access Ahead

Weng Fen, ‘On the Wall — Shenzhen (I)’, 2002, chromogenic colour print. M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation. © Weng Fen

M+ has come a long way since last year, when we made the decision to steer the museum towards open access. We’ve marshalled resources, delved deep into our collections data, recalibrated our institutional priorities, and set up cross-functional working groups to galvanise and strategise data creation, standardisation, translation, and enrichment.

So we’re excited to announce that at the end of the month, to coincide with a new symposium called “M+ Matters: Art and Design in the Digital Realm,” we will begin publishing M+ Collections data as open data. The data will be available for download in English and traditional Chinese via our GitHub page, and we will launch a new public API along with it.

Alongside the symposium we’ll be hosting our first ever data-design hackathon — email us if you’d like to take part! — so that people can immediately start exploring and visualising M+ Collections data in the context of the world wide web.

The M+ API will be available for anyone who’d like to work with it, but it’s important to us that the hackathon isn’t only for coders. It’s for artists, designers, illustrators, creators — anyone who’s curious about telling stories through data. We’ll be posting more details on the hackathon soon.

The Bigger Picture

Moving towards open access has required a huge museum-wide push. It’s been made possible by the vision and support of our leadership, and by working together closely across various teams, from curatorial, digital and editorial, to collections management, rights and reproductions, registration, archives, and conservation.

Starting as a brand new museum in 2012, we’ve had to build our collections from scratch, going from zero objects when the museum was first established to more than 5,000 objects plus thousands of archival materials in just six years — a pace unheard of in established institutions, whose collections grow incrementally. This has taken an enormous amount of work, from researching, acquiring, and accessioning every object in our collections, to photographing, transporting, and cataloguing each item in two languages to make our data ready for public use.

That work will only expand as our collections continue to grow. At the same time, we’re preparing for the opening of our massive museum building, all the while ensuring our objects are cared for physically, whether they’re being stored, loaned out to other institutions, or displayed in one of our ongoing exhibitions.

For now, there’s still a daunting (and exhilarating!) amount to do, and we’re excited to hit our first critical milestone when we start to release our data into the public domain.