What is a Library/Archive/Museum According to Linked Data?

In my previous post,  Hacking Museums Count,  I introduced the data that IMLS has released for the National Civic Day of Hacking and took a first stab at assigning LOD properties to the data they provided.     This was based on some of my previous work mapping IMLS DCC data.  Following my initial observations,  I decided to take a closer look at how libraries, archives, and museums are currently modeled in Linked Data resources such as Freebase, DBpedia, and Schema.org.

What is a Library?

“A library…is an organized collection of information resources made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing.” (Wikipedia)
  • /organization/local business/library (Schema.org)
  • /organization/educational institution/library (DBpedia)
  • /place/Architectural Structure/Building/library (DBpedia)
  • /architecture/building function/ (Freebase/Wikipedia)
  • /library (Freebase)

What is an Archive?

“An archive is an accumulation of historical records, or the physical place they are located.” (Wikipedia)

  • notably, Schema.org does not have an explicit class for archives
  • /organization/government agency/ (DBpedia)
  • /archive  (dbPedia)   although this class doesn’t seem to be associated with other top-level classes.  Wikipedia/dbPedia resources are given as instances of this class.
  • /organization/organization_type (Freebase)
  • /organization/organization_sector (Freebase)
Best one yet….  /fictional organization type! (Freebase)

What is a Museum?

“A museum is a building or institution dedicated to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, historical, cultural or artistic value.” (Wikipedia).

  • /place/civicStructure/Museum (Schema.org)
  • /place/Architectural Structure/Building/Museum (DBpedia)
  • /architecture/museum (Freebase)

This is only a partial listing of the kinds of thinks a LAM can be according to these linked data sources.  It raises some interesting questions about how to properly model the IMLS data.  What is IMLS’s view on this information?   The emphasis of the total dataset is on location (address, lat/long, Census Block, etc.), so perhaps this is reflected in how LAMs are represented in Linked Data.   I’ll need to go back and revisit my assumptions about LAMs being organizations that are associated with a structure of some kind.

So what?

As we talk about the convergence of LAMs,  the different ways that each sector has been represented as top-level Linked Data classes raises some interesting questions.

  • What does this tell us about public (well…LD public) perception of LAMs?  The narrative definitions on Wikipedia pages seem incongruent with the ontological classes. (is a library a collection? an organization? a building?)
  • Much of our attention as professionals is directed at representing our collections.  What is our responsibility to ensure that LD concepts reflect our understanding of what we do?
  • What is the impact on these specifications on our other Linked Data work?  Given some of the choices that have been made so far,  it could lead to some unexpected inferences:
    • <A Building> <hasCopyright> <An Image>
    • <A Painting> <isPhysicallyLocatedIn> <An Organization>
    • <A Person> <employedBy> <A Place>
The danger here (as with much Linked Data) is that we are talking about a few different entities that overlap.   The Museum (Legal Entity);  The Museum (a building); The Museum (a functional role as an organization that collects stuff).  Perhaps by looking at other kinds of entities that are similar/different to museums (i.e. non-profits, performing arts, businesses, etc.) we can see some alternatives that neatly address this problem.


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3 thoughts on “What is a Library/Archive/Museum According to Linked Data?

  1. I would use the museum definition from either the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) or the legal definition of a museum…U.S.C. § 9172 defines ” a public or private nonprofit agency or institution organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes, that utilizes a professional staff, owns or utilizes tangible objects, cares for the tangible objects, and exhibits tangible objects to the public on a regular basis. Such term includes aquariums, arboretums, botanical gardens, art museums, children’s museums, general museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums, and zoological parks.” IMLS museum data is based off of this definition.

  2. Really interesting analysis, RIchard. I wonder if the definitions of these terms from the LD resources you cite are influenced by the fact that these terms also have more generic meanings in addition to the community/place specific ones. Consider, for example, that iTunes has a “library” and zip files are “archives” according to the MacOS. There’s definitely a good paper in there based on the idea of what inferences can be drawn from the existing structures!

  3. Thanks Justin,

    It looks like these formal definitions that we all live by aren’t referenced in the Wikipedia article, which seems like a curious omission. I’ll be curious to see how many of the crowdsourced museums here fit the legal definition (and how one might automate testing these kinds of submissions).

    Good luck tomorrow!

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