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SMHS Connects with Serendip-o-matic

posted Aug 13, 2013, 4:34 PM by Web Master

Earlier this month, librarian Ray Palin was part of an open-source software development team that developed and launched the search tool Serendip-o-matic. The team, which consisted of twelve librarians, programmers, designers, museum professionals, and professors, was brought together as part of the One Week | One Tool digital humanities institute, a program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.


Unlike conventional search tools, the "serendipity engine" takes in any text, such as an article, song lyrics, or a bibliography. It then extracts key terms, delivering related results from the vast online collections of the Digital Public Library of America, Europeana, the National Library of Australia, and Flickr Commons. Because Serendip-o-matic asks sources to speak for themselves, users can step back and discover connections they never knew existed. It's not search, it's serendipity.


The One Week | One Tool team, in the course of five days, conceived, developed, tested, promoted, and launched their product. The group was divided into project managers, a development/design team, and an outreach team. Mr. Palin worked as a member of the outreach team, which was primarily responsible for product description, page content, user advocacy, and publicity. Mr. Palin looks forward to using knowledge gained from his experience in an ongoing effort to improve research and library services at SMHS.