Persian Manuscripts in Cultural Institutions

April 12, 2018 - All

Originally the aim of this project was to search two cultural heritage institutions, the Walters Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, to isolate objects on a collection level – specifically manuscripts – and then distill this data on an item level. A script was written in Python for each museum to pull the relevant data. The files are and In each the JSON text string was converted to a Python dictionary. Initially, when working with the data, my particular interest was in the percentage of Persian manuscripts in the both museum’s repositories. Both Walters Museum and the Brooklyn Museum APIs provide access to their digital records of art. After this data was gathered, the next step was to write a counter in the script to help count how many total manuscripts there are in the collection, and how many of these are Persian. For users who are interested in other collection data from these museums, the code for both museums can be modified by changing keywords to search through either institution’s holdings. If one wants to search for French manuscripts, as an example, this can be easily done by replacing the existing keywords “Perisan” and “Iran” and inserting the desired keyword. The resulting information can be viewed on the corresponding graphs, below. Timelines: As the project progressed a timeline for each museum – with information obtained from the metadata of the respective scripts of the museums, such as the date made and poets/artists who worked on the object – seemed like a natural fit to visually organize the data. While the samplings were random, I attemped to pull manuscripts from the same time range for both museums – from the 15th century to the 18th century. Further, when possible, I included objects in both timelines from the same poet to highlight the way manuscripts differed aesthetically.

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