This is a photograph I took of a sculpture of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem. When I added it to Flickr, I wanted to credit the sculptor, but I didn’t know his name. I decided to try looking this up in SIRIS, a database that I had heard about but had never tried, and I was really impressed with what I found.
SIRIS: Smithsonian Institution Research Information System — The Smithsonian provides access to much more than information about its own collections. The Inventory of American Sculpture provides authoritative information on nearly 32,000 outdoor sculptures collected from a nationwide survey known as Save Outdoor Sculpture. The information and indexing for each work is extensive and impressive.
For example, see the record for the sculpture shown here: SIRIS: Nathanial Hawthorne. The information includes not only the name of the sculptor, but the names of the architect, founder and fabricator, a complete description and references. The indexing is extensive, and you can click on the links in the record to find other works by the sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt, other works administered by the City of Salem’s Public Works Department, or even other works featuring novelists, canes or hats!
These databases should be really useful to people working on Flickr, Wikipedia, blogs and other personal and collaborative projects. They are also useful to librarians for reference and also for local history projects.