Revisualizing the Crystal Palace: Cataloging History, Part 4

Co-written with Steven Lubar on Medium:

“Cataloging History” is a four-part series on the history and theory of museum and exhibition catalogs, focusing on the 1853 New York Crystal Palace. This final installment applies the tools of the digital humanities to explore the Crystal Palace catalogs as digital object. What can we do when we turn the catalog into a database?

One of the many souvenirs available at the New York Crystal Palace was a build-it-yourself wood model. Open the box, arrange the blocks, and you could build your own miniature Crystal Palace. In this final installment of “Cataloging History,” you too can build your own Crystal Palace, but digitally, by moving bits, not bits of wood, around. What can a digital model tell us?

William Richards’ job as catalog editor was to think hard about the best way to arrange the Official Catalog, knowing that once he made that decision, it couldn’t be changed. The catalog would be printed, the data in it frozen into the arrangement he decided upon. But now the ice has melted. We have freed the data, turned it from a printed book into a database. It has come back to life. It can be analyzed, represented in new ways. It can be searched, sorted, faceted, mapped, turned into networked and nodes. The database is here, if you’d like to follow along.

Read the whole post here.

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