I read on Daring Fireball yesterday about the new Library of Congress iPhone application. I love libraries, museums, and any large collection of interesting data and was really excited about this app.
It's a nice app, and a really good start for the Library of Congress, but it's missing something I wanted: access to the Prints & Photographs Online Collection. For over a decade, the Library of Congress has been digitizing material from their collections and putting them online. Unfortunately, the web interface is kinda weak on a computer and nigh unusable on an iPhone. Which is too bad, because there's a lot of really cool stuff in here, including works by and photographs of many famous artists such as Ansel Adams, Alice Boughton, Edward Weston, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and many others. There is also a huge amount of historical photographs, artworks, and documents going back to the founding of our country and even earlier. It's the kind of place you can easily lose hours exploring.
I actually hacked out an iPhone app for searching the Prints & Photographs Collections quite a while back. I started it originally because I wanted to play with a few things I hadn't used yet, like iAds, and I find it's easier to do so if I'm writing a "real" app rather than just playing.
And when I say "hacked out", I'm not exaggerating in this case. This wasn't architected so much as thrown together. It started out an entry page where you enter a search term, and then a single table view with the results. I wrote it in one Saturday night after several beers, scope creep increasing with each new beer. But… it works and seems to work pretty well. I spent another couple of hours this evening cleaning up the rough edges and running it through Instruments. I've got a short list of bugs I need to fix, but it probably needs not more than a day's worth of work before it could go to testers.
After the Library of Congress came out with their own app and it didn't include this functionality, I started thinking it might be worth throwing this on the app store as a free app to complement the official one. The ads might generate a little income, but I don't expect very much from what I've heard about iAds fill-rate, and it doesn't really matter, most of the work is already done. Be kinda nice if one of the many abandoned apps in my dev folder got to see the light of day.
So, what do you think? Any interest? I've attached some screenshots of the app so you can see how it works. You can click them for full iPhone 4 resolution. Let me know in the comments if you think this is an app you'd download and also let me know if you're interested in testing.