Sep 12, 2006
Cultural Connectivity - Matapihi turns two
Ever considered the amount of travelling you would have to do if you wanted to research a particular subject, let's say 'the global cross-cultural effect of the British Empire'. The records and artefacts which may contribute invaluably to your research are housed on dusty shelves distributed all over the world (and they are not found on, or made available to, Yahoo/Google). The only way to access them is to visit all these places and spend time browsing the artefacts and book pages one by one to get what you need.
Perhaps that was an ambitiously large subject. We can probably find other research topics covering a smaller area, but no matter what - you will probably have to travel. So you may ask, "Why don't all these people just get together and create one website and show everything in a searchable format there?"
New Zealand had that opportunity. It is a much more compact nation, with a lot more scope of intra-cooperation. The organisation of a National Digital Forum, allowed an opportunity for the various institutions to communicate their common set of concerns. One of the outcomes had been a requirement to create the kind of website I mentioned previously.
Thus came the idea of Matapihi, a very interesting website produced as a result of collaboration among several knowledge institutions. It is hosted by the National Library of New Zealand, and contains contributions from many partners. It was launched on 8th September 2004 with five contributors presenting their collections on this site - Alexander Turnbull Library, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland City Libraries, Christchurch City Libraries, and Otago Museum.
Recently, the popularity of the site has attracted more contributors such as New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, and The New Zealand Film Archive.
The result has been to provide one central location that 'Opens the window' to the amazing collections of New Zealand information. This has empowered all the partners who have become part of it, rather than taking interest away from their own websites.
We need more knowledge institutions throughout the world to come together and provide convergence points that allow deep exploration of their collections. After all, we would like to save our travel money for sight-seeing rather than distant shelf-browsing.