I am pleased to announce a new product from the Open Data project: http://api.records.nsw.gov.au
What is an API?
APIs, or ‘application programming interfaces’, provide platforms for developers to write applications that connect with other services. If you’ve used a Twitter client or a custom Flickr application, you’ve indirectly benefited from the web APIs that both of those companies provide. For State Records NSW, a web API has value both as a flexible base upon which we can build new and richer means of accessing the collection and also as an interface that external developers and services (such as federated search portals) can use to connect with the collection.
Features of State Records NSW’s API
Today’s release is an ‘alpha’ one, which is to say that it is a first draft and we would really appreciate feedback about the direction you would like us to head with it.
Broadly speaking, the API provides access to the ‘nouns’ of State Records’ catalogue (the entities: series, items, activities, agencies, etc.) and to one ‘verb’, search. Entities can be accessed either singularly or as lists through logical URLs (e.g. http://api.records.nsw.gov.au/agencies or http://api.records.nsw.gov.au/agencies/1) and are available in multiple formats (XML, JSON and some additional standardised formats such as MODS). Search results are available in XML (the OpenSearch format) and JSON.
Developer documentation is available here: http://api.records.nsw.gov.au/usage.
I’m not a developer, can I use it too?
Absolutely. All the resources in the API are available as normal web pages too and, in implementing the ‘search’ feature, we’ve been experimenting with new ways of presenting search results (try the ‘collection search’ box at http://api.records.nsw.gov.au). Please note however that although the API connects directly with Archives Investigator it is not yet complete: in particular, information about the relationships between entities is not yet represented (we’re working on it). Some other neat features of the API for regular users include Zotero and OpenSearch integration (I’ll describe these in a follow-up post).
Today’s release is a starting point but we hope to develop the API into a platform capable of delivering access to a range of State Records NSW’s online resources (such as images, indexes, disposal authorities, and, in the future, digital archives). We hope to extend the range of formats supported (especially archival formats such as EAC-CPF). And perhaps make it a writeable API (capable of capturing user contributed data such as tags, comments and images as well as agency contributed data such as transfers of digital archives). If you have any ideas about features you’d like implemented, please suggest them as comments below.