Aesthetically scientific

Something for everyone, today. Technical boffins, scroll down and take a look at our tasty metadata. The rest of us can stay up the top here and enjoy these beautiful photos by Richard Sharell.

Richard Sharell came to New Zealand with his wife Lily in 1939 as refugees, having fled Austria after the German takeover of 1938. He brought to his natural science photography an eye for interesting angles, lighting, and extreme closeups, creating dynamic and dramatic images. His pioneering photographic work can be found in two books, New Zealand insects and their story and The tuatara, lizards and frogs of New Zealand .

Sharell considered the aesthetic dimension to be inseparable from his scientific interest, saying “I see through my eyes, not with them. My endeavours were not only to give a fair representation to the creatures, but to show images which manifest the rhythm of form and patter, the colour and the texture.” (Quoted in Leonard Bell’s essay on Sharell, ‘Sojourner in a Foreign Land’.)

The aesthetic science of image metadata

Update, May 2012. Sorry kids, but due to an API upgrade that changes the way we handle queries, this little tidbit no longer works - you can no longer search on this kind of individual piece of metadata. On the bright side, the site is now faster and more stable, and that ain't nothing.

Sharell’s photos are gathered together in our collections as a group, our way of saying several items have the same provenance. You can see that there are 10 available images in the group.

The Library holds a ton of tiny sub-collections like these, and with a bit of sneakiness you can browse through these eclectic holdings.

We've added a metadata field to groups called “child_count”, which states how many item records the group holds. The Sharell group has 10, so the metadata statement is <meta name="DNZ.child_count" content="10"/>.

You can search just on this attribute by putting child_count:“10” in the search box – this uses the metadata attribute we’re curious about, and sets a limit of just groups with 10 items.

Your results will be every group that contains 10 collection records, including Sir Donald McLean’s Inward letters in Maori, and records of the Women’s International Motorcycle Association (New Zealand Branch).

To feel like a real hacker, just like the hackers in Hackers, search for child_count:[1 TO 10], which gives you all groups with anywhere between one and 10 items.

If you’re of a technical bent, view the source html on a group or item page, to see what metadata has been attached. Then have a go searching on various attributes and labels. Tell us what you find!

By Lucy Schrader

Lucy is your friendly neighbourhood online editor.

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Rowan March 21st at 8:25AM

Thanks for the clear explanation on this Reuben.