The people inside

A little hack to reveal faces in the archives.

1,589 total views
  1. Late one night...

  2. The background...

  3. In 2011 I created this:
  4. It's a compelling and rather discomfiting wall of faces, thousands of them, extracted from records used in the administration of the White Australia Policy. The records are now held by the National Archives of Australia.

    It's a different way of exploring and understanding the archives -- one that brings the people to the surface.

    And it only represents a small sample of the records...
  5. The idea...

  6. I was extracting a new set of portraits to add to the wall...
  7. ...and I wondered what would happen if we went the other way. If instead of extracting the images from the collection database, we inserted the portraits, these faces, back into the archival system.
  8. I'd played around with userscripts before... 
  9. They're little bits of javascript that change the way web pages look and behave in your browser. I've used them to customise the National Archives RecordSearch database in a number of ways.

    So why couldn't I create a userscript that showed the people inside the records...
  10. Hacking the archives...

  11. I needed two things. A simple API connected to our Invisible Australians database that could provide information on the portraits extracted from a file, and a userscript that would grab the barcode from a file in RecordSearch and send off a query to the API.

    It wasn't hard.
  12. When RecordSearch displays a list of files, the script grabs a random portrait from each file and displays it as part of the list.
  13. When you look at the details of an individual file the script shows you all the portraits we've extracted from that file.
  14. Try it...

  15. If you're using Chrome it's easy. Just go to the Userscripts repository and click 'install'. If you're a Firefox-er you'll need to install Greasemonkey first.

    Then to to RecordSearch hit begin and click on the 'advanced search for items link'. 

    So far we've only extracted portraits from one series, NAA ST84/1. So enter ST84/1 in the 'series number' box, check the 'digital copies only' box and away you go...
  16. Why bother?

  17. Some people will find this a useful little tool (well I know at least one...). But that wasn't really why I made it. For me it's another experiment in the way we represent people online. It's not the systems that are important, it's not the data -- it's the people inside.
Like
Share

Share

Facebook
Google+