Triples to Trenches – Linked Data in Archives

Lianne Smith from King’s College London Archives

Archives have records/papers from Senior Military personnel (I think I got that right?) [update 10th March 2013: thanks to David Underdown in the comments below for clarifying that Lianne was referring to the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives]

See Archives at KCL being innovative – and latest project is in Linked Data space.

Lianne is an archivist, not a technical specialist. 18 months ago, hadn’t heard of linked data – so a beginners view.

Context: Preparation for centenary of the start of the First World War – other institutions also doing work:

KCL had already contributed to the latter of these.

Report had highlighted the problem of locating resources and searching across information sources – even within institutions. Report particularly noted that if content wasn’t surfaced in Google searches it was a lot less ‘discoverable’. Also lack of clear vocabulary for WWI materials – so wanted to establish a standard approach building on existing thesauri etc.

Also Triples to Trenches built on previous project funded by JISC – particularly “Open Metadata Pathway” and “Step Change” projects – creating easy to use tools which would enable archivists to publish linked open data within normal workflows and without specialist knowledge.

Aims of Trenches to Triples included:

  • Creation of API to share data created using Alicat tool (output of Step Change project)
  • Adaption of catalogu front end for visualistation of linked data entities
  • Creation of Linked Data WWI vocabulary of peronal names, corporate name, place and subject terms – available for reuse by archives sector
  • Also act as a case study of Linked Data in archives

Within Alicat Places are based on Google Maps data – which ‘makes it simpler’ [although the problem with using contemporary maps when the world changes…] [also note that looking at a Place ‘record’ on there is a GeoNames link – wonder if this is where the data actually comes from? E.g.]

Outcomes of project:

  • Creation of WWI dataset and integration into AIM25-UKAT
    • Lesons learned in the creation of the dataset concerning identification of the level of granularity required and the amount of staff time which needs to be invested in preparation
    • different users have very different requirements in terms of granularity of data
    • Team included WWI specialist academic – identified a good resource for battles – could reuse existing data
    • Different users also use variation of terms in their research
  • More work on the front-end (User facing UI) presentation of additional data
    • Being able to integrate things like maps into UI is great
    • Need to work more on what sort of information you want to communicate about entities – especially things like Names – unlike location where a map is obvious addition
  • Need to increase the availability of resources as linked data
  • need to increase understanding and training in the archives sector
    • This approach is hugely reliant on understanding of the data – need archivists involved
  • need ongoing collaboration from the LODLAM community in agreeing standards for Linked Data adoption


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