ALA Annual 2012: Linking Data Across Libraries, Archives, and Museums
Sponsor: Committee on Libraries, Archives and Museums (CALM)
- Martin Kalfatovic, Asst. Director, Digital Services Division, Smithsonian Institution
- Patricia Harpring, Managing Editor, Getty Vocabulary Program, Getty Research Institute
- Richard Wallis, Technology Evangelist, OCLC
- Rachel Frick, Director, Digital Library Federation at CLIR
The combined Committee on Libraries, Archives and Museums (CALM) sponsored a session titled “Linking Data Across Libraries, Archives and Museums.” Convened by Danielle Plummer, the session consisted of four panelists who contributed to the discussion of how these three institutions in particular are contributing to the creation, dissemination, and linking of cultural heritage data on the web.
Matrin Kalfatovic’s presentation titled “Thinking of Linking,” outlined the standard definitions of what is means to structure data as well as the principles underlying the Linked Data movement. He compared the current efforts in opening data to the established role of cultural institutions as knowledge organizations, object curators, and access mediators. While the mechanics required to support twenty-first century methods of inquiry might have changed dramatically, the ideals of facilitating discovery, research, and information literacy, still lie at the very core of the institutional missions within the LAM communities. Kalfatovic encouraged these communities to contribute their authoritative and interconnected knowledge domains to an expanding global information network.
Kalfatovic mentioned a few LAM applications already supporting structured data. The Digital Public Library of America is expanding its current holdings and plans to provide a triplestore for pubic access, including links to the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF). He cited the advancements of the Biodiversity Heritage Library in building an open data repository of taxonomic names and bibliographic information. Kalfatovic also mentioned developments in web architecture and information management strategies, citing the example Zepheria, as potential application for deploying semantically enriched platforms for disseminating data.
In her presentation “Getty Vocabularies and Linked Data,” Patricia Harpring of the Getty Institute gave an overview of the Institute’s plans to transform the existing vocabularies into linkable data. While currently not linked, the Getty vocabularies are well equipped for expression in a variety of RDF formats. Each of the terms in the Getty thesauri is identified by Uniform Resource Number (URN), which can serve as a persistent link to the term. Getty is currently experimenting with the Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) and investigating which linked data formats are of most relevance to their communities.
Harpring showed examples of how the four Getty vocabularies (AAT, TGN, ULAN, and CONA) support complex relationships such as hierarchical associations, events, or geographical contexts. Currently, CONA (Cultural Objects Name Authority) is the only vocabulary containing links to the other three. However, due to the existing architecture and associative linkages present within all Getty thesauri, the expression of complex relationships and hierarchical associations will be possible.
Richard Wallis, Technology Evangelist at OCLC (yes, that’s his real title) suggested that Libraries, Archives and Museums serve as the ‘Cultural Linked Data Backbone,’ for broadening information networks. Wallis suggested that the LAM communities should be primary contributors to an increasingly networked hub of data. Libraries, Archives, and Museums can provide a rich cultural context when describing and classifying resources. When supplemented by other information entities, such as the Media, Government, and Scientific networks, these efforts will strengthen the information architecture of the semantic web.
Wallis showed examples of library applications that support linked data including VIAF, British National Bibliography, FAST and the Dewey Decimal System. Wallis also showed the embedded linked data feature now accessible from within every Worldcat record. Wallis also mentioned the substantial growth in the development of schema.org. He stated that currently, seven to ten percent of the pages crawled by Google contained some sort of schema.org markup and he predicted that this figure is likely to increase.
The session concluded with a presentation by Rachael Frick, Director of the Digital Library Federation at CLIR. Frick’s discussion was focused on the activities of LOD-LAM and related organizations. Frick elaborated on some of the events sponsored over the past year, including Hack4Europe, as well as the first LOD-LAM summit held in San Francisco at the beginning of June. She also gave preliminary details regarding the next LOD-LAM challenge, aimed at developers and other information industry professionals looking to create sustainable and standardized applications capable of supporting structured data. The 2013 LOD-LAM summit will be held in Montreal and will sponsor a total of five attendees with projects showing potential for intensifying the role of LAMs in the Linked Data environment. Stay tuned for specifics regarding the event and the application process.
While only a handful of applications, tools, and systems that were mentioned by the speakers made it into this session summary, the full range of platforms and standards already existing in LAMs, as well the opportunity to partner with other industries, make this an exciting time for cultural data stewards across disciplines and organizations. The web of data is growing, and it looks like libraries, archives and museums are ready to contribute.