Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The new Picture Library website from the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) makes it much easier to find their images from remote locations than it used to be--some images, if you have a fast internet connection. The home page will load a horizontally scrolling row of images without the option to skip it, so if you have a slow connection, you may want to go directly to the subject & category search page or to featured collections. (I accessed the site on a fairly fast network, and grew impatient waiting for the home page to load through the course of my searching.) The site has a useful FAQ broadly outlining policies, but doesn't address what is on this site in comparison to the digital collections previously made available over the web and currently made available on other sites.

Browsing, I saw lovely photographs, objects, paintings--a wide range of items that have been imaged. When I went to the search page, however, and entered this search in the caption search box: "cat head"
my search retrieved one image, a portrait of Captain Sir Charles Hamilton. Apparently, this text is responsible for responding to my phrase search:

This half-length portrait in kit-cat format shows the sitter with his head turned to the right.

Since the FAQ doesn't include advice on constructing search terms, I'm inferring that they don't offer phrase searching. I then tried various terms and variations. I was hoping to find images that I had found through their website before, e.g., "PAD8643 Gaff, Cat Head, Driver Boom, Bow Sprit," a watercolor--but I didn't find it on nmmimages.

It is a great website. On a fast connection, it's easy to navigate, and if you see something you like, there is a link at the bottom directly to their print sales. But I'm not sure how useful the site is for the serious researcher--there are clearly more images available on the main NMM website, but how many more? We don't know. And images that are on the NMM Flickr site are also not appearing on nmmimages (when I looked).

The casual user, or pleasure browser, might enjoy nmmimages, but the casual user might discover more NMM images through a Google Images search by including the phrase "national maritime museum"--I know I did.


Douglas said...

Hi there

Thanks for featuring our new website and for your comments - this kind of feedback is invaluable. I am the Picture Library Manager at the NMM and have developed from conception to launch over the last 14 months.

If I may respond to your points in order:

1) a "switch-off slideshow" button for slower connections is a great idea I'll investigate.

2) content: another good point made here. NMM has developed several on-line catalogues since the internet was born, featuring a variety of content presented in different ways. With, we're trying to present concisely and consistently in terms of caption length and format, for example. This takes longer (we spent 3 months editing 15,000 captions last summer!) but will be worthwhile, I feel.

3) search: this is an area we're working on and improvements will come during 2009, such as keywording. The site does offer phrase (and other flexible) searching. The 'how to' guide on this is in the 'Help' area, but I'll look at making this more prominent.

4) Google is king and likely to remain so!

We have an exciting plan of development for the site, so please keep an eye out for new collections and features this year.

Do feel free to reply here or email me ( with further comments if you wish.

Best regards

Douglas McCarthy
Picture Library Manager
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Heather said...

Many thanks, Douglas, for taking the time to post such thoughtful and helpful comments! It's good to hear that you & your staff are taking the time necessary to edit the captions in a consistent manner, to ensure high quality data. I'll be returning to often.

And I have been a frequent visitor to your has such potential & I look forward eagerly to its growth!