Linked Art: Networking Digital Collections and Scholarship

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Kevin Page

    Oxford e-Research Centre - Oxford University

  2. 2. Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass

    The Yale Center for British Art - Yale University

  3. 3. David Beaudet

    National Gallery of Art

  4. 4. Samantha Norling

    Indianapolis Museum of Art

  5. 5. Lynn Rother

    Leuphana Universität, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

  6. 6. Thomas Hänsli

    ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), Universität Zürich (University of Zurich)

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Panel Overview: Linked Art - Networking Digital Collections and ScholarshipLinked Art[1] is a major new initiative by which art museums will publish information about their collections as interconnected open data. Building upon long standing interdisciplinary thinking from the digital humanities and information engineering, Linked Art is an international collaboration across twenty-four institutions identifying focussed, practical models which meet their requirements on a sustainable basis.The central aim of Linked Art is the development and application of Linked Data to cultural heritage collections, with an emphasis on works of art and their provenance. Linked Data will provide the foundation for multi-modal digital scholarship across these rich collections; as an open data standard, Linked Art provides consistent, structured ways for arts institutions to publish art-related data where, in many cases, there has not been a consistent shared model to date.This panel presents a range of perspectives representative of the collaborative intersections found in the Linked Art community: with speakers from universities and art museums; who are practitioners and academics; on topics ranging from implementation, to curation, and research.The panel will takes the form of six position papers, outlined below, followed by questions and answers between the audience and panel. In doing so, Linked Art seeks to engage with the Digital Humanities community, building capacity for future collaborative implementations and research investigations.1. Linked Data and Open Data in Cultural HeritageEmmanuelle Delmas-Glass, The Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, USA.Cultural heritage institutions have a great deal to gain from deeply engaging in the networked environment. They have poured many resources in the digitization of their collections for the benefit of their audiences, from students to experts, who want to have access to more online material of a higher quality. The current landscape of cultural heritage knowledge on the Web, however, is very much siloed, which both harms the relevance of individual institutions as well as the overall state of scholarship which might use that knowledge.This paper reflects on the main challenges that cultural heritage institutions face when it comes to publishing their collections descriptions as Linked Open Data resources. Some challenges can be due to friction between a declared digital mission and the resources allocated, which might seem to be in competition with other institutional priorities. Other memory institutions are still in the process of understanding that managing their knowledge and data – so it can then be leveraged for the Semantic Web – needs to be a core data curation activity. It is also partly due to the lack of entry-level technology and ontology resources that has prevented museums from engaging more deeply with Linked Open Data.This talk will give an overview of previous initiatives and technologies intended to open up access to cultural heritage institutions, particularly art museums, including the International Council of Museums Committee for Documentation Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC CRM, also an ISO standard); The American Art Collaborative (AAC); PHAROS, the International Consortium of Photo Archives; the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT); the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN); and the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF).In the context of the successes and limitations of these efforts, this paper will outline the strategy taken by Linked Art, which is both a standard-based data model and a community, which has emerged from earlier work at the Getty Research Institute. This presentation will challenge the traditional paradigm which has large and wealthy institutions succeed in the face of structural challenges. In this era of hyper connectedness, the solution to museums’ relevance in the Web cannot be developed by a lone institution, and indeed the model that Linked Art promotes is instead based on inclusion with the goal to create institutional and individual partnerships. The other precept that the Linked Art data model advocates for is usability over absolute data completeness, and this talk will go over some specific data modeling principles that allow balance between the requirements of the institution, domain knowledge experts, technologists who will implement the standard, and scholars and other users of Linked Art.Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass is the Collections Data Manager at the Yale Center for British Art, a member of the IIIF Operating Committee, and co-chair of the Linked Art working group of the International Council of Museums’ Committee for Documentation (ICOM CIDOC). She oversees the creation, access to and distribution of the museum’s collections information and metadata, playing the lead role in ensuring the intellectual and technical integrity of the collections data and metadata.2. Conceptual models meet practice and scholarship: conventions, standards, and technologyKevin Page, Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford, UK.The utility of a data model is dependent on its usage, and the context in which this use occurs. While conceptual models play an important role in providing a framework within which different data sets can be consistently represented and combined, in practice the resulting information structures can be perceived as complex or unwieldy, which can stifle adoption in cultural heritage institutions.Specialisms in scholarship and practice bring differing requirements and benefits to the structuring of collections data and its analysis, which are similarly defined by use – the operational needs of a collection or library are different from that of an exhibition, or of the intellectual needs of academic study. The challenge, then, is in respecting and encouraging these different ‘information perspectives’, whilst benefiting from their intersections where they occur, and managing the complexity of the systems and organisational implications. In addition, we recognise scholarship within cataloguing and curation activities, whilst appreciating these have different – but complementary – information needs and outputs from academic study of the collections. Digital tools and methods should reflect these activities, roles and specialisms, rather than constrain them. Doing so can ease adoption of digital approaches alongside existing established practice, increasing the sources of compatible structured information, and achieving overall progress through the combination of multiple information intersections.In considering the above, this paper reflects upon more nuanced notions of authority, standards, and how these are realised technologically; moving from necessary ‘on the wire’ interoperability to a progression from local practice, through emergent community conventions, to international standards bodies. It can be beneficial for different stages of maturity to exist simultaneously across distinct but complementary information structures, reflecting the communities of specialist practice and scholarship who are using the data. The technologies of Linked Open Data, including RDF and ontologies, provide a flexible foundation through which we can realise such an iterative and incremental approach to standardisation, and in which alternative information perspectives can co-exist.Linked Art recognises a further first-class perspective: that of the software developer writing (potentially for, or with scholars) applications which consume collection data provided by cultural heritage institutions. It adopts the principles of Linked Open Usable Data, as proposed by Rob Sanderson of the Getty Research Institute, to create a profile of the CIDOC CRM tailored to this information perspective, and in which established practice – for example, in the use of AAT – can be respected.Kevin Page is Associate Faculty at the University of Oxford e-Research Centre. He was Technical Director of the Oxford Linked Open Data (OXLOD) project, a prototype for the use of CIDOC CRM across the Gardens, Libraries, and Museums of the University of Oxford. Kevin is Principal Investigator of the Linked Art Research Network and Linked Art II project, both funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, and a member of the Linked Art Editorial Board.3. Practicing Linked Art: Evolving Art Data at the National Gallery of ArtDavid Beaudet, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA.The National Gallery of Art (NGA) seeks to serve the United States in a national role by preserving, collecting, exhibiting, and fostering the understanding of works of art, at the highest possible museum and scholarly standards. As such, the institution is frequently engaged in activities that require production of the structured data describing our collection, the associated media, and writings related to the collection’s historical significance. These demands for data manifest in a variety of ways. Images are requested en masse, data sets are requested in support of research, and both data and media are increasingly requested in support of on-site and remote visitor experiences as well as for analytical purposes.In recognition of the need to automate the accurate publication of data about art, artists, depictions of art, and associated media, the NGA’s department of Analytics and Enterprise Architecture has been seeking data modeling and dissemination standards that are accepted by the cultural heritage art community in order to ensure the greatest reach possible from its automated art data services. The NGA has selected Linked Art as a strategic data standard.  Standardizing formats and exchanges of data through automated means has paid dividends for many industries in the past and continues to do so. For example, the IIIF standards[2] for image sharing have expanded the reach of deep zoom technologies and image collections across the cultural heritage sector and it is expanding into other communities[3]. Whilst data standards are not in themselves novel, no prevailing broadly adopted standard for modeling art data exists. Linked Art seeks to fill that gap.As part of its participation in the Linked Art community, the NGA is evolving an existing art data interface, one that currently provides collection data and images to its Conservation Space system, to use the Linked Art standards as a proof of concept. This paper will give details of that implementation, alongside the basics of the Linked Art model[4] - for representing artworks, people, and depiction. The evolving, open source[5], public-facing NGA interface already provides art data to a location-aware mobile app[6] available for visitors to download on their iOS devices, which will be demonstrated.A solution architect with the National Gallery of Art since 2005, David Beaudet designs and builds technical solutions for authoring and publishing rich art imagery, content, and metadata. David is a member of the editorial board of Linked Art and collaborates on the IIIF Discovery API.4. The Linked Art of Georgia O’Keeffe: Collections Across Institutional BoundariesSamantha Norling, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Indianapolis, USA.The creation and publication of linked open data allows for previously siloed data to be connected with other related data on the Web, breaking down institutional barriers and facilitating research and new scholarship – in traditional and digital formats – that may not have previously been possible. With members and community participants representing over 20 different arts-related organizations, the Editorial Board for the developing Linked Art data model for describing art collections reflects this barrier-breaking nature of linked data.In order to showcase the connections that can be made when multiple institutions publish their collections data in a consistent format and utilize shared vocabularies, members of the Linked Art community collaborated to create a cross-institutional sample data set. The artist Georgia O’Keeffe was selected to serve as the common thread for the data to be contributed by participating institutions. With an emphasis on relationships, the linked data collected for the showcase naturally expanded to include not just O’Keeffe and her artworks, but also the works of her contemporaries, the exhibitions in which the artworks were exhibited, and the various organizations and individuals that had participated in provenance events in the lifecycle of the artworks.The development of the Linked Art O’Keeffe data set serendipitously coincided with the launch of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s (GOKM) beta version of the GOKM’s Collections Online, which was built on a linked data foundation. The GOKM expressed the importance of linked data to their digital strategy to make it possible for “meaningful connections to be expressed across different types of collections (artworks, archival items, books, etc.) to establish a more complete understanding of Georgia O’Keeffe’s life, work, and contexts.”Drawing on both the GOKM’s Collections Online[7] and the co-constructed O’Keeffe showcase data set that is now available publicly within the Linked Art GitHub repository[8], this paper and panel presentation will explore the network of Linked Art data with Georgia O’Keeffe at the center. Following intersections between and connections across data sets, the exploration will follow a path through the many relationships identified that link artworks, archives, exhibitions, and people within O’Keefe’s linked data network. In discussing some of the specific relationships identified between institutional collections, the exploration will also highlight key patterns within the Linked Art data model. The Georgia O’Keeffe showcase data set, while small in scale, demonstrates the potential for the Linked Art data model to facilitate the creation of new connections between collections of all types – connections that cross institutional boundaries and facilitate scholarship at the intersections between GLAM collections.As Digital Collections Manager at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Samantha Norling manages digital assets and data related to the museum's art, archival, and horticultural collections. A trained librarian and professional archivist working within an art museum, Samantha is particularly interested in digital projects that break down barriers between GLAM institutions. She is a member of the Linked Art Editorial Board.5. The History of Art is Linked but the Data Is Not: Georgia O’Keeffe, Provenance and ScholarshipLynn Rother, Leuphana Universität, Germany.The history of artworks is linked. They were produced by the same artists, traded by the same dealers, collected by the same people, transferred, looted or confiscated by the same entities while eventually finding their permanent home in the same museums – or not. To date, these links across museum collections are only visible to the few scholars or experts studying the artworks’ history of ownership. But the field of provenance research has matured enough to enable and support structuring and aggregating provenance records as Linked Data.Though shaped by complex and diverse contexts, an artwork’s provenance record can be broken down into empirical data consisting of objects, protagonists, dates, locations and types of transactions. To this day, however, the majority of museums record the valuable information harvested through time-consuming and resource-intensive provenance research within their collection management systems without machine-readable structure, hindering the analysis and linking of the data across institutions on a larger scale. Digital humanities tools offer the potential to standardize, aggregate, and consider the museum accumulated provenance data broadly to reveal new stories about the global circulation and displacement of artworks and nuance the existing histories of collecting and art market practices.As museum objects and their movements through time and space tell stories beyond object-based art historical research and collection cataloguing, this paper will elaborate on the potential of Linked Art for provenance research and for scholarship in related fields. The intertwined histories of selected works by the American Modern artist Georgia O’Keeffe – from different museum collections including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York – will serve as an example.In particular, MoMA’s acquisition and deaccession of O’Keeffe’s Kachinas – representations of Pueblo and Hopi spirits used in ceremonies and rituals and therefore considered culturally sensitive objects in museum collections – will show how structured provenance data of museums using Linked Art can benefit related research fields such as the histories of collecting and art market practices but also museum, Native American, and Indigenous studies.Lynn Rother is the Lichtenberg-Professor for Provenance Studies at Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg, Germany, and a member of the Linked Art Editorial Board. Previously, Lynn was Senior Provenance Specialist at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where she oversaw provenance research, procedures, documentation, digital strategies and funding in conjunction with all curatorial departments regarding works in the Collection, loans, acquisitions, and deaccessions.6. Topographia Helvetiae: Linked Art in SwitzerlandThomas Hänsli, University of Zurich / ETH Zurich, Switzerland.The historical view of Switzerland’s nature has been defined by artworks describing a ‘visual topography’ of the Alpine country long before the emergence of a broader touristic interest for Switzerland across Europe. Paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs depicting alpine landscapes, natural monuments, picturesque villages and much more shaped the perception of Swiss landscapes both nationwide and beyond.The Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI) provides unified and mutual access to Swiss collection data, research data, and digitised visual resources from museums, archives, collections, as well as academic and public research institutes, based on a Linked Open Data network. Being part of a national research infrastructure programme, its mission is to combine the unique scholarly expertise from specialised research institutions beyond technical, linguistic, and institutional borders and to enhance the visibility and accessibility of Switzerland’s valuable collections and research resources.The aggregation and access of these visual resources is fundamental for browsing and understanding the evolution of the framing of Switzerland. The project »Bilder der Schweiz« (Views of Switzerland), developed under the aegis of SARI, provides a unique access point to topographic artworks and photographs from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century from major Swiss libraries, museums, and private collections. Starting from mass-printed, but hand-coloured vedute of the so-called ‘Schweizer Kleinmeister’ -- an affordable visual medium to propagate a canonised view of Switzerland that gained increased popularity over time -- the research portal includes related materials such as landscape paintings, drawings, printed textual sources, travel guides, travel journals, and further materials related to artist production, printing and marketing of printed ‘vedute’.The project will provide unified access to these heterogeneous materials from comparable, but technically different, institutional repositories following the Linked Art data model; and in doing so enhance public visibility of these little known, but widely consumed ‘Schweizer Kleinmeister’, and make them accessible to scholars.The project also provides an excellent test of the Linked Art framework’s flexibility, assessing the model’s ability to describe specific non-mainstream subject-based collections. This paper will reflect upon the overall transformation of a diverse selection of data sources into a Linked Art compliant format; with a specific focus on the advantages and drawbacks of the framework when describing tight semantic integration between the expression (the depicted visual apparatus) and the content (the perspective over the object). Finally, a reflection over the possible coexistence of multiple levels of description of an object, each level addressing specific communities, will be presented.Head of gta Digital (ETH Zurich, 2011) and director of the Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (University of Zurich, 2017), Thomas Hänsli has authored the strategy for a national research network and co-authored the development and implementation of comprehensive reference data models based on CIDOC-CRM. He is responsible for the implementation of several Linked Open Data projects in Switzerland and a member of the Linked Art Editorial Board.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2020
"carrefours / intersections"

Hosted at Carleton University, Université d'Ottawa (University of Ottawa)

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

July 20, 2020 - July 25, 2020

475 works by 1078 authors indexed

Conference cancelled due to coronavirus. Online conference held at Data for this conference were initially prepared and cleaned by May Ning.

Conference website:


Series: ADHO (15)

Organizers: ADHO