CC Open Source Blog

Smithsonian Unit Code Update


by Charini Nanayakkara on 2020-08-03

This blog is part of the series: GSoC 2020: CC catalog


The Creative Commons (CC) Catalog project collects and stores CC licensed images scattered across the internet, such that they can be made accessible to the general public via the CC Search and CC Catalog API tools. Numerous information associated with each image, which help in the image search and categorisation process are stored via CC Catalog in the CC database.

In my previous blog post of this series entitled 'Flickr Sub-provider Retrieval', I discussed how the images from a certain provider (such as Flickr) can be categorised based on the sub-provider values (which reflects the underlying organisation or entity that published the images through the provider). We have similarly implemented the sub-provider retrieval logic for Europeana and Smithsonian providers. Unlike in Flickr and Europeana, every single image from Smithsonian is categorised under some sub-provider value where the sub-providers are identified based on a unit code value as contained in the API response (for more information please refer to the pull request #455). The unit code values and the corresponding sub provider values are maintained in the dictionary SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS. However, there is the possibility of the unit code values being updated at the Smithsonian API level, and it is important that we have a mechanism of reflecting those updates in the SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS dictionary as well. In this blog post, we discuss how we learn the potential changes to the unit code values and keep the SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS dictionary up-to-date.


Retrieving the latest unit codes

We are required to obtain the latest unit codes supported by the Smithsonian API to achieve this task. Furthermore, since we are only interested in image data, the unit codes which are associated with images alone need to be retrieved. The latest Smithsonian unit codes corresponding to images can be retrieved by calling the end point

Check for unit code updates

In order to identify whether changes have occurred to the collection of unit codes supported by the Smithsonian API (in the form of additions and/or deletions), we compare the values retrieved by calling the previously mentioned endpoint, with the values contained in the SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS dictionary. All changes are reflected in a table named smithsonian_new_unit_codes which contains the two fields, 'new_unit_code' and 'action'. If a new unit code is introduced at the API level, we store that unit code value with the corresponding action value 'add' in the table. This reflects that the given unit code value needs to be added to the SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS dictionary. If a unit code that appears in the SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS dictionary does not appear at the API level, we store the unit code value with the corresponding action value 'delete' in the table, reflecting that it needs to be deleted from the dictionary.

Triggering the unit code update workflow

A separate workflow named check_new_smithsonian_unit_codes_workflow allows executing the logic we discussed via the Airflow UI. For each execution, the table smithsonian_new_unit_codes is completely cleared of previous data, and the latest updates to reflect in the SMITHSONIAN_SUB_PROVIDERS dictionary are stored. Note that the actual updates to the dictionary (as reflected in the table) needs to be carried out by a person, since editing the dictionary is not automated. Furthermore, this workflow is expected to be executed at-least once a week, preferably prior to running the Smithsonian image retrieval script such that the Smithsonian sub-provider retrieval task can be run with no issue.


I express my gratitude to my GSoC supervisor Brent Moran for assisting me with this task.