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Emanuil Tolev

Submitted Entry for 2013 Competition

British Library - deviantART Bridge


deviantART is the world’s largest online art collaboration and sharing community, based on the deviantart.com website. deviantART is currently serving ~259 million pieces of art from over ~27 million registered artists and art appreciators from all over the world (quite literally).

deviantART has a category for visual art called “Stock Images” which are images that artists can reuse in their own art to create new artworks. The one condition for an image to be called a stock image is of course the legal ability of other artists to reuse the image in their own art.

The British Library has millions of images as well as other artwork which is out of copyright and could potentially be used as stock art and gain new life through the works of current artists. Uploading those images with the correct metadata and linking back to the British Library Digital Collections where they come from is the challenge addressed by the British Library - deviantART Bridge.

Assessment Criteria

The research question / problem you are trying to answer*

Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question / problem posed:

Enabling the exposition of old art works to current artists and integrating them in modern art work

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections*

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at http://labs.bl.uk/Digital+Collections

This can have a huge impact on the popularity and usage that all British Library Digital Collection items get, and in the most direct way possible - by exposing them to artists and art appreciators who would use them in their own works. Beyond the general deviantART artist public, the site also has a thriving steampunk community and the whole concept of steampunk is based on ideas which match the age of many British Library collections. deviantART also has cosplay and reenactment communities which would be very interested in the wealth of information about the medieval and Victorian periods to use in their own art or to inform their work.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved*

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

Visualisation of available British Library Digital Collections, in order to help artists navigate the vast expanse of the items available (a visual catalogue of the collections with the brief explanation currently available for each one anyway would be helpful to artists who perceive the world in a more visual way, as it has been helpful to the general public in understanding a variety of data)

A small service which consolidates the metadata (including ways to get to the actual materials, e.g. images) for the various Collections of interest will be built. Then, a small service which is capable of automatically uploading works to deviantART will be built, with the ability to generate a custom description text automatically, linking back to the Digital Collection pages. Then, the deviantART uploader service will be fed the data from the Digital Collections metadata service. This will make all images that the British Library Labs team has decided to share available through a British Library account on deviantART.

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team*

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

The author (and the wider team) have experience in large-scale data processing, in particular indexing and searching metadata for academic publications, educational resources and funding data, as well as visualising such data. Building services on top of data as well as using service to enrich current data or connect datasets together has been our core activity for the past 2 years. A list of the projects we’re currently working on can be found here:

http://www.cottagelabs.com/projects and a list of the projects we have completed,

here: http://www.cottagelabs.com/projects/complete .

Almost all of these (except reports) build a service on top of data or consume such a service. We were also selected to write a report for Jisc, a Higher Education funding body, on the advantages of API-s (essentially the advantages of services which can co-operate automatically over the internet): http://www.cottagelabs.com/projects/advantages-of-api-report .

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis*

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).


Consolidating the metadata for different collections largely depends on the current state of the data. From a preliminary look aided by the British Library Labs team it seems quite possible to create a service which would contain and serve metadata for the various collections, as well as to keep it up-to-date. If it turns out to be too difficult to load up the metadata of the Collections which the British Library chooses to share in one single service, then it would certainly be possible to write individual small pieces of software which consume the metadata for each Collection and feed it to the deviantART uploader service separately - that fits the basic definition of data processing. The data on the British Library side can certainly be processed, taking into account reuse rights which seem to be present at least at the collection level (i.e. apply to all items in a collection) for the Digital Collections.

deviantART has a dedicated service called Stash, for storing and sharing artwork - this is what powers the main deviantART.com website in fact. The Stash service has a machine-friendly interface (API) which can be used with authentication to upload artwork from a specific account (see http://www.deviantart.com/developers/stash ). This would mean that the deviantART uploader service has almost no work to do except provide shorthands for the Stash API, and also store the secret key of the British Library account at deviantART. This part of the Bridge certainly seems well-provisioned.


No new information will need to be collected or curated by the British Library Labs team(s) as part of the project.

Access to the metadata of all Digital Collections that the library wishes to share will be needed, complete with machine-friendly pointers to the actual artwork (e.g. URL-s pointing to the image files). The metadata seems to have been compiled in one place (that is how it was shared for a preliminary look with the author by the British Library Labs team) so the only potential source of further work here is the provision of machine-friendly pointers to the artwork, which should be easy to do (and only in cases where the metadata does not already contain this, if any).


All items shared will be from Digital Collections that the British Library itself deems as shareable and reusable, and the licensing stated on deviantART.com will reflect that when items are uploaded.

There do not seem to be any grey legal areas at all in this project, as all data involved would already be licensed under a license which permits reuse (if it does not, or if the rights are unclear, the item is not going to be uploaded to deviantART and it could be flagged for review or added to a weekly digest of items to be reviewed for rights problems - the best place for this could be the deviantART uploader service).

The author would strongly prefer that all software outputs are open source under a permissive license such as the MIT license, the new BSD license or the Apache 2.0 license (or other), depending on the legal requirements of the British Library itself. The whole scholarly sector and the Open Knowledge sector in particular have greatly benefited from the permissive sharing and reuse that such licenses allow. The author is ready to present more information in support of this point if required.

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team*

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between July 6th - October 31st 2013

July 6 – Onwards
1/ Conversing with the British Library Labs team and other teams as appropriate to determine which collections to share, based on reuse rights and simply priority or preference (i.e. which collections would the Library like to see exposed to a large community of artists)
2/ Desk-based research and analysis of the available metadata for these collections
3/ Procuring a sufficiently powerful computer system with enough operating memory to hold an index of this metadata (the Digital Collections metadata service should not require a lot of resources and should be able to be easily run on current British Library machines)
4/ Start building the Digital Collections Metadata service, have at least 1 collection in it by end of month
5/ Contact the deviantART team and inform them of the project. They already seem to have all the technical provision needed to achieve the project on their end, but may have new developments in mind which would be helpful. Also, alerting them earlier will make it easy to generate the appropriate press releases or arrange interviews with British Library staff to explain and market the project to all artists on deviantART. Staff from the site regularly feature competitions and large-scale art projects for all users to see and have a lot of useful experience in dealing with their varied community.

August 2013
6/ Start building the deviantART uploader service. At least one successful batch automated upload of artwork (more than 1 item) using collection metadata from step 4 by end of month.
7/ Stable version of the Digital Collections metadata service, at least 3 collections available (if that many are selected for sharing on deviantART)
8/ Sketch out how data from the metadata service is going to go into the uploader - the actual bridging part
September 2013
9/ Add more collections as desired to the metadata service
10/ Stable deviantART uploader service
11/ Stable bridge between the two services (i.e. artwork can now make its way to deviantART with few to some errors or problems).
12/ Prepare for release to the deviantART community by means of a deviantART Headquarters press release, e-mail or blog posts.
13/ Visualisation of available Digital Collections, noting which ones have been uploaded to deviantART and providing links to the British Library site where they haven’t been shared (yet)

October 2013
14/ Final fixes and testing of the bridge between the stable metadata and uploader services.
15/ Release and action on feedback from the deviantART community (including work on the visualisation of available collections, since experience seems to dictate there is always something to change in a visualisation after its intended audience peruses it for a while)
16/ Assistance to the British Library Labs team for future plans for this service and maintenance arrangements (e.g. hosting, continuing to provide newly added metadata, if any, to the metadata service, etc.)