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‘Big Data’ opens new-look National Library

30 November 2012

‘Big Data’ opens new-look National Library

A suitably immense subject is the opening public programme for the newly refurbished National Library building on Wellington’s Molesworth Street.

The Library reopened to the public this week after a three year closure to renovate and future-proof the building, which houses a vast catalogue of the nation’s treasures, including the billion-dollar collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

One of the many resources the public are being invited to view in the revitalised building is ‘Big Data – Changing Place’, an exhibition curated by Richard Simpson of the International Society for Digital Earth. It considers the vast volume of information digitally available, and its potential uses in all areas of life. In particular, ‘Big Data’ looks at how humans can use technology as a super-sense, making the invisible visible and the intangible tangible.

“‘Big Data’ is a technical term for referring to volumes of data too large to be processed by a single system,” explains Richard. “Sixty years ago, digital computers made data readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition.

“Big Data is not just for big business,” says Richard. “It is redefining our lives and the way we see the physical and social places around us, ourselves and the wider universe.”

The exhibition features an interactive 3D digital landscape that shows Thorndon in the1840s (recreated from actual paintings made at that time) and projecting forward to what the area could look like 100 years from now.

‘Big Data – Changing Place’ can be viewed during the National Library’s normal open hours: 10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday.


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