Art Institute of Chicago Public API

Earlier this year the engineering team at the Art Institute of Chicago announced the availability of our public API, a system that’s an integral part of our website and a means of creative problem-solving on our team. Our API holds the most comprehensive amount of data made public by any museum in the field. It serves as a repository for information on all aspects of our museum’s public presence, including metadata on over 100,000 artworks from the museum’s collection, including works’ relationships to resources like artist biographies, keywords, and exhibitions. We have information on every exhibition we’ve hosted in our 140-year history and on 20 years’ worth of microsites, not to mention over 1,000 products from our shop, blog articles going back a decade, and full publication texts.

As part of redesigning our web presence in 2018, our engineering team was interested in digitally enacting an idea that’s been fundamental to our organization in recent years: that we’re one museum with many voices. To this end, we built a Data Hub to bring in data from nine different systems and provide a single source for data and relationships across these systems. This unification of data was an essential component of our website redesign, and it serves as the foundation upon which all our future products will be built.

Over the past year, as the nation has had to reckon with its historic legacy of racism, we saw further evidence that one of the fundamental ways systemic oppression operates is by limiting access to resources and information. We’ve become further resolute in the idea that making our data easily accessible to the public via our API can help open up access to a wider, more diverse group of people. Our ambition for this project is to create a platform that can usher all of our projects into the future, and our vision is to create new doors through which people can enter our institution.

Take a look at our documentation at api.artic.edu, and see our public announcement here: https://www.artic.edu/articles/902/public-access-to-our-public-presence-sharing-our-api. Learn more about the Art Institute of Chicago’s open-access initiatives at artic.edu/open-access.