Mansion Maniac, a whimsical online toy created by the New York Public Library, may seem like envy bait for the real-estate have-nots. With the help of a Pac-Man-like icon, users can explore the floor plans of some of the city’s most extravagant early-20th-century residences, culled from the library’s archives.
But the game is what you might call a marketing teaser for a major redistribution of property, digitally speaking: the release of more than 180,000 photographs, postcards, maps and other public-domain items from the library’s special collections in downloadable high-resolution files — along with an invitation to users to grab them and do with them whatever they please.
“We see digitization as a starting point, not end point,” said Ben Vershbow, the director of NYPL Labs, the in-house technology division that spearheaded the effort. “We don’t just want to put stuff online and say, ‘Here it is,’ but rev the engines and encourage reuse.”
Most items in the public-domain release have already been visible at the library’s digital collections portal. The difference is that the highest-quality files will now be available for free and immediate download, along with the programming interfaces, known as APIs, that allow developers to use them more easily.
“We are trying to make it so users can not only see things, but can make determinations about whether to use them in new ways,” said Greg Cram, the library’s associate director of copyright and information policy.
Image Source : George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. hinese children’s games. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-2165-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99