What is Sematic Web and Linked Data?


The semantic web infers the meaning, or semantics, of information on the Internet using metadata to make connections and display related information that would otherwise be elusive or altogether invisible. In the 1960s, the Library of Congress developed and released the first protocol for linked metadata, the machine-readable cataloging format, or MARC, as it is commonly known. Advances in these standards and search engine analytics are connecting library catalog systems on the Internet, and using linked data to help users uncover and delve into content that is, for all practical purposes, hidden in the Deep Web. Semantic searching most frequently applies to scientific inquiries, allowing researchers to gather an abundance of relevant, credible information without using a dozen search tools, each with their own precise filters. These emerging Internet technologies have the potential to revolutionize research, unearth troves of scientific knowledge, and transform the way academic stakeholders pursue purposeful investigations.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • People want more from their museum experience. By using linked data, we can connect more people to more content. Our collections, if tagged with the right kind of data, could be driven to give people more of what they like. Using what people are already interested in as a starting point of learning relevance allows us to connect education to them in a meaningful way. - ortiz ortiz Feb 16, 2016 - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Feb 29, 2016 - jfoley jfoley Feb 29, 2016
  • The main thrust of linked data exploration in the museum sector is on providing scholars with more convenient access to large numbers of highly heterogeneous sets of data, information, and media. As the poll of linked data increases and the tools for accessing it improve and proliferate, you'll see among other things: - njohnson njohnson Feb 23, 2016
    • Improved access of information resources to secondary degree students both for their direct research but also as material repurposed in classrooms
    • In museums, this will not only provide increased access to information for research but also provide a richer and more structured information set of resources that can feed the programmatic endeavors of curators and educators. (See ArtTracks project link below)
    • An increase in the public nature of debate around scholarly theories and assertions of fact
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Some historical perspective: since the card catalog was invented in the 18th century the goal in libraries and beyond is to provide connections between ideas and facts based on meaning. The card catalog provided a useful if limited perspective on connection between books based on topics. Relational databases arrived in the 70s to add data normalization standards and ability to do math and other functions on the data. XML promised liberation from the hidden schemas of the RDBMS world and make data more transportable. Now RDF promises to extend XML's utility by imposing a graph model for the data that provides a named, and therefore, meaningful, connection between any two entities. It seems needlessly limiting to say that "Semantic searching most frequently applies to scientific inquiries". Semantic querying has utility in the most seemingly mundane tasks (show me other things like this thing) as well as in sophisticated and potentially algorithmically-supported or reliant searches in pursuit of meaningful connections between facts and ideas that an army of graduate students could never hope to uncover. It is as important to cultural heritage as it is to scientific inquiry, law enforcement, etc. - njohnson njohnson Feb 23, 2016 - dianezorich dianezorich Feb 23, 2016 - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Feb 29, 2016
  • Although linked data standards and supporting tools are maturing rapidly, creating, managing, and making use of linked data is still a heavy lift for most GLAMs. It will take time for a critical mass of robustly modeled cultural heritage linked data to emerge and for the tools to improve and diversify. The open source tack taken by many purveyors of tools is heartening as this helps in certain key ways to lower the bar of entry for some institutions. - njohnson njohnson Feb 23, 2016
  • I agree with Neal here, and for that reason would suggest this is a mid to long-term impact trend.- dianezorich dianezorich Feb 23, 2016- jludden jludden Mar 2, 2016
  • I also agree that this is mostly a mid to long-term Impact trend. But I also think that we will start seeing some impact in the near term in the offerings of federated repositories, like the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), as well as the work of the American Art Collaborative.- chuck.patch chuck.patch Feb 27, 2016 Add Europeana http://europeana.eu/portal/ - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Feb 29, 2016
  • When talking of Linked Data, we must not forget the important term Open! The openness of the data museums provide greatly enhances the interoperability and use value of Linked Data for the public. In order to encourage European cultural heritage institutions to release their collections as openly, and with as rich metadata as possible, Europeana recently launched a new Publishing Framework designed along a rising curve - the more value you offer, the more you get in return http://pro.europeana.eu/publication/publishing-framework - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Feb 29, 2016 +1 - njohnson njohnson Feb 29, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • People don't expect this from museums yet, but it's becoming more commonplace in digital culture. Sites like Amazon and Netflix capture their users data and use it to provide and suggest content and product. Although there are philosophical arguments to be made that museums should offer things people have not seen, consumers are becoming accustomed to getting these suggestions. Why can't our collections reflect similar practices, connecting people to content they might really like but not know about? And from there, maybe we offer something they don't expect? - ortiz ortiz Feb 16, 2016
  • Cultural heritage linked data is already providing a boost to digital humanities scholars who can organize and combine data sets in ways that provide insights that could not have been elicited by any traditional method. As the web of linked data grows, the inherent valences of disagreement and agreement between differing assertions of the related facts will be illuminated thus enhancing the opportunity for debate, the visualization of the change in ideas over time, and a democratized platform for both viewing and participation by audiences of citizen researchers and idea contributors. The authority of GLAMS will be challenged in ways heretofore unseen. They will have to adapt and take advantage of the opportunity this shifted data landscape brings to them. - njohnson njohnson Feb 23, 2016
  • I think a lot of the impact will be on things that won't be necessarily obvious to visitors, or will have a longer term impact over time in terms of how we think of objects in our collections, how they are contextualized, etc.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Some prime examples of linked data being used/explored in service to cultural heritage (there are many more out there) - njohnson njohnson Feb 23, 2016
    • Linked data ontologies and other standards in service to cultural heritage:
      • CIDOC CRM - This time-based ,mature, and extensible ontology was developed specifically for use in the semantic modeling of cultural heritage data and information. It is the backbone of nearly all current GLAM linked data initiatives. - chuck.patch chuck.patch Feb 27, 2016 From what I understand of the CRM, one of its most interesting qualities from the standpoint of cultural documentation may be its capacity to capture shifts in classification systems through time. This is a powerful tool both for internal applications designed to manage curatorial research, as well as for linking assets among institutions.
      • BIBFRAME - The Library of Congress' bibliographic ontology
      • FRBR - OCLC's bibliographic ontology. The CIDOC CRM has been extended so that FRBR can be mapped and linked to the CRM.
      • International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) - Linked data standard for aggregating, viewing, and manipulating images on the web.
      • SPECTRUM - - chuck.patch chuck.patch Feb 27, 2016 The Collections Trust standard for collections information management. This a somewhat arguable addition to this list, but recent iterations of the standard have made a concerted effort to synchronize with the CRM. As Spectrum is the most widely implemented standard for collections management in museums (at least in terms of lip-service) the effort to smoothly integrate the CRM ontology should ease the way for wider implementation of LOD
    • American Art Collaborative - 14 partner institutions (museums and an archive) converting American art collection data, archival finding aids, images, constituent records, exhibition data, and more to linked data. Goal is to generate a critical mass of linked data and build a tool for browsing the graph data in ways that elicit the full value proposition for use of linked data in service to cultural heritage scholars. The conversion and linking of partner data sets will conclude in the fall or 2016. The browse app and analysis of the data set will conclude in 2017. (full disclosure: I'm a consultant on this Mellon Foundation and IMLS-funded project)
    • Carnegie Museum of Art
      • ArtTracks - IMLS and NEH-funded project led by the Carnegie Museum of Art. Smithsonian's Freer/Sackler Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art are collaborating to extend CMU's original concept of using linked data to add structure to art object provenance records in order to make this valuable information resource more useful to researchers and easier to reuse in service to museum digital public programs. (full disclosure: I consulted on an early phase of this project).
      • "Elysa" provenance linked data management tool
    • Smithsonian Freer/Sackler Galleries - The Freer/Sackler Gallery is exploring the utility of linked data as a solution to a problem where standard RDBMS systems (such as TMS) were determined to be not robust enough to handle the data management and querying needs of the institution as it expands its NAZI-era provenance research efforts to include works on paper from their collections. (full disclosure: I'm a consultant on this project)
    • Yale Center for British Art, Princeton Art Gallery, The Walters Art Gallery, and others are converting their collection data to linked data as a leading edge of analysis into the institution-wide value proposition of the semantic web.
    • Art Institute of Chicago - AIC is using the linked data-based Fedora platform to build a data and asset management system for the institution.
    • Europeana - ~50 million cultural artifacts, videos, sounds, and books described, aggregated, and available through a searchable interface as well as an API for export and remote querying. This resource is in heavy use by digital humanities scholars and others.
    • Nomisma.org - Collaborative project to provide stable digital representations of numismatic concepts according to the principles of linked open data.
    • ConservationSpace and ResearchSpace projects. These two systems are in final stages of development prior to deployment as free, open source tools for use in GLAMs. They are both fully semantic in the way they manage cultural heritage data. ConservationSpace is a full-lifecycle case management system for cultural object conservation activity and information resources. ResearchSpace is a linked data aggregation and search tool in support of scholarly research. (full disclosure: I was previously a product manager on the ConservationSpace project)
    • KulturSampo - Finnish cultural heritage repositories and tools
    • Social Networks in Archival Context (SNAC) - Linked data aggregation of archival finding aid information allowing convenient browsing of constituents across multiple collections.
    • USC Information Sciences Institute "LOD Stories" app - Realtime auto-generation of an online tour based on user-defined art historical connections between two artists.
    • Linked Jazz - Browsable graph visualization of social and professional connections between jazz artists.
    • The European Library - Multiple major European library catalogs made searchable through a single linked data-driven interface.
    • Linked data vocabularies and instance data
      • Getty Vocabularies - The Art and Architecture Thesaurus, Union List of Artist Names, Thesaurus of Geographic Names, and the Cultural Objects Name Authority have all been released as linked data. This collection of linked data will be a lynchpin in helping individual institutions and consortiums to link their data to one another using authorities such as these.
      • GeoNames
      • DBPedia
      • and many more...
    • Linked data tools and services
    • APIs and SPARQL endpoints
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