Linked Open Data Technologies and Emblematica Online II

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Mara R. Wade

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  2. 2. Timothy W. Cole

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  3. 3. Myung-Ja K. Han

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Work text
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In the context of Emblematica Online I, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) from 2009, the University of Illinois and the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel (HAB), digitized 728 Renaissance emblem books, thereby substantially expanding the digitized corpus. We have digitized approximately 70,000 individual emblems, creating detailed emblem-level metadata for more than 17,000 of these. Each emblem is identified with a globally unique URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) maintained in a shared emblem registry. The OpenEmblem Portal prototype was collaboratively designed to provide access to these materials and to demonstrate the feasibility of international repository interoperability.

A new NEH grant from the Historical Collections and Reference Resources program in 2013 focuses on proving the viability of the OpenEmblem Portal prototype. This grant features an expansion of the Portal with content from the collections of at least 4 additional institutions. The new grant also supports experimentation with Linked Open Data (LOD) services and RDF-based annotation tools, demonstrating how Semantic Web technologies can facilitate discovery, new modes of scholarly communication, and the more effective use of digitized emblem resources in scholarly research and pedagogy.

To further build the emblem corpus for the OpenEmblem Portal, researchers at Illinois will expand the virtual emblem collections in three important ways at varying levels of granularity. We will

1) integrate existing digital facsimiles of early modern emblem books from the Getty Research Library, Duke University Library, and the Hathi Trust, in order to demonstrate proof of concept. This increases the number of individual emblem books in the OpenEmblem Portal by more than 300 volumes.
2) incorporate metadata for 8,231 individual emblems from completed digitization projects at Utrecht University and Glasgow University.
3) digitize and create metadata for approximately an additional 100 rare emblem books from the University of Illinois’ collections and create emblem-level metadata for them.
By adding the combined number of 8,231 already indexed emblems from Glasgow and Utrecht to 8,000 additional indexed emblems from the University of Illinois, OpenEmblem Portal will nearly double the corpus of searchable emblems, increasing the number of indexed emblems currently available from 18,889 to 35,121. Emblematica Online II thereby creates an extraordinarily rich resource for all areas of Renaissance Studies.

In comparison to the path-breaking publication of Arthur Henkel and Albrecht Schöne’s handbook Emblemata (1967), which partially indexed 45 emblem books, Emblematica Online I made 723 complete digital facsimiles with 18,889 individual emblems available on the Web. At its conclusion Emblematica Online II will expand this corpus to over 1,000 key Renaissance emblem books and present more than 30,000 fully searchable emblems in high quality images indexed by Arkyves according to Iconclass notations and labels for scholars worldwide. The mottos for these emblems will also be searchable in a database of emblem mottos. Additional emblems will be registered and available for browsing, albeit initially without transcription and Iconclass indexing (pending subsequent projects and possible emblem scholar crowd-sourcing). By analogy to Henkel and Schöne, heralded as a major research accomplishment at the time of its publication, Emblematica Online II will accomplish and initiate comparable research activity by a factor of more than twentyfold.

Moreover, the design of the OpenEmblem Portal and its use of LOD directly addresses the acute scholarly need to move beyond a catalogue of a large number of digitally available books and will create a significant corpus of richly indexed materials at the sub-book level. While the OpenEmblem Portal focuses on emblems digitized from print, emblems also permeate the fine and applied arts. Through LOD best practices and emerging annotation standards, the OpenEmblem Portal eventually will allow scholars to link an emblem found in a Bavarian church or a Swedish manor house to a printed emblem. This more granular and semantic approach to describing digitized emblem resources also opens up opportunities to engage graduate and even undergraduate students in the project. For example, undergraduate students at Illinois are meaningfully supporting the OpenEmblem Portal by participating in emblem motto transcription and registration.

This poster presents our progress with Portal evolution, LOD technologies, and next steps to leverage LOD to facilitate emblem research and pedagogy.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

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Conference website:

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO