Mitchell Whitelaw

Cultural visualiser

Mitchell Whitelaw

Cultural visualiser

In a talk where he jok­ingly said he felt “no pres­sure”, Mitchell Whitelaw presents a fas­cin­at­ing look at a num­ber of pro­jects he is involved in to pre­serve and visu­al­ise rich data about Aus­tralian cul­tural assets includ­ing pho­to­graphs, prints and doc­u­ments. As good as some of TED’s own great visu­al­isa­tion work, Mitchell’s work has won accol­ades across the Aus­tralian cul­tural sphere.


Museums, archives and lib­rar­ies have spent the past dec­ade digit­ising their col­lec­tions. The res­ult is a rich moun­tain of cul­tural data – a digital treas­ure trove – but when it comes to access­ing these col­lec­tions, we are stuck at search.

Search is like look­ing at a vast land­scape through a power­ful tele­scope: great if you know what you are look­ing for.

How can we see the “big pic­ture” – under­stand the scope and struc­ture of these cul­tural data­sets? In pro­jects such as The Vis­ible Archive and com­mon­sEx­plorer, Mitchell Whitelaw makes visu­al­isa­tions that deliver rich inter­faces to cul­tural data­sets, with a focus on explor­a­tion and con­text-build­ing bey­ond the tight focus of search.