What Wikidata offers Oxford’s GLAM Digital Strategy

As part of Oxford’s GLAM Digital Strategy, there has been some interesting research into audience archetypes. This work examines the many different aims people can have when engaging with our GLAM institutions: from “have fun” to “use collections in teaching”. The technology we use in GLAMs can help users in these goals, or can throw up frustrating barriers, and this strategic work explores how it could help.

Meanwhile, open platforms like Wikipedia continue to be the principal way in which people encounter cultural heritage. A growing “GLAM-Wiki” movement involves cultural institutions and volunteers in sharing collection data and building new tools, with some of those data sets coming from Oxford University. So is there an overlap between Oxford GLAMs’ aspirations and what Wikidata enables? In this post, I draw together some of my previous posts to show Wikidata’s role in advancing some aims mentioned in the document. Continue reading

Build your own Digital Bodleian with IIIF and SPARQL

This post describes a simple way to create a customised, interactive view of a set of documents. Despite my provocative title, it’s not a rival to Digital Bodleian, having far less content and without the personalisation and commenting features. BUT it is 1) customisable in terms of the items it displays and 2) not limited to Oxford collections. So in the long term this technique could be useful to researchers who want to focus on a set of items, such as the manuscripts, printed works or art works of a particular culture or era.

IIIF is the International Image Interoperability Framework (discussed previously). At the time of writing there are around 32,000 objects with IIIF manifests linked from Wikidata, from over 100 GLAM collections. Just under two thousand of these are from Digital Bodleian. The Bodleian items are usually multi-page documents such as manuscripts, incunabula, or other printed books, many of which are in this digital form thanks to the Polonsky Foundation Digitization Project.

With some code in the SPARQL query language, we can request the IIIF manifest for each document we are interested in, and send it to a reader application that will give us a nice interactive interface. Continue reading

Making Wikidata visible

→ Cet article en Français

I’ve been experimenting with a way to show how Wikidata represents knowledge; specifically how it makes pathways out of relationships between things. In a previous post I wrote about how Wikidata’s representation enables new pathways between entities. Since those pathways link into a giant web they offer new ways to discover existing collection objects. Now that I have been describing Oxford’s GLAM collections on Wikidata, we can show concrete examples of this expanding knowledge graph.

Normally with Wikidata we specify properties and get results that are identifiable things. For example if we ask for “female historians born in the 1730s with a biography in Electronic Enlightenment”, we get Catherine Macaulay. Here I’m using queries that specify a group of things and request the properties connecting them. So we get a tiny fragment of the Wikidata knowledge graph (which right now has just over 54 million people, places, publications, object and concepts). We can see how different kinds of data (biographical, bibliographic, and catalogue data) are combined in the same model. I’ve captured these graphs as screenshots, but I recommend clicking through to the live query where you get a draggable, stretchy graph. Continue reading

Detailed depictions with IIIF, Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons

Extract from “High Street Oxford.” Ashmolean Museum WA2016.48

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a standard, developed by a consortium including the Bodleian Libraries, that allows images and associated metadata to be shared across the web. It’s used by many sites including Digital Bodleian and Wikimedia’s image server, Wikimedia Commons.

As of November this year, Wikidata can point to the IIIF manifests associated with a digitised object (example near the foot of this page). However, the opportunity of Wikidata and IIIF is not just about discoverability of the IIIF data itself. Included in IIIF is the ability to address a specific rectangular region of an image with a URL. Wikidata can use this to express statements about part of an image

Anyone familiar with Turner’s “High Street, Oxford” will recognise several landmarks included in the scene. In this sense, there is a lot of structure in the image that is obvious to humans but not naturally captured in the painting’s digital representation (image + catalogue record). My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to express in open data not just that the painting depicts the Church of St. Mary the Virgin but that a specific part of the image depicts the church. Continue reading

A global collection of astrolabes in linked open data

I previously wrote about how easy it is to describe a GLAM collection item in Wikidata: it’s quicker than writing a blog post in WordPress and the resulting data are endlessly reusable. This time I’ll go into more detail about using Wikidata’s interface to describe items from museum collections, and announcing a new tool to browse the aggregated collection.

The Museum of the History of Science recently shared catalogue data about its outstanding collection of 165 astrolabes on Wikidata. Although Wikidata already had the power to describe astrolabes, very few had been entered, so this donation is a huge leap forward. If nothing comes to mind when I say “astrolabes”, here’s an image gallery generated by a query on Wikidata.

I’m going to take a random entry from David A. King’s “A Catalogue of Medieval
Astronomical Instruments” and describe it in Wikidata. Having checked that it isn’t already there, I click “Create new item” on the left hand side of any Wikidata page. At first I’ll be asked for a name and one-line description in my chosen language.

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Translating a blog post into structured data

Timur Beg Gurkhani (1336-1405) plays a small role in our story. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Recently my Bodleian colleague Alasdair Watson posted an announcement about an illuminated manuscript that is newly available online. To get the most long-term value out of the announcement, I decided to express it as Linked Open Data by representing its content in Wikidata. This blog post goes through that process. Continue reading

Some ways Wikidata can improve search and discovery

I have written in the past about how Wikidata enables entity-based browsing, but search is still necessary and it is worth considering how a semantic web database can be useful to a search engine index.

This post is about three ways Wikidata could help search and discovery applications, without replacing them: 1) providing more or less specific terms (hypernyms and hyponyms), 2) providing synonyms for a search term, 3) structuring a thesaurus of topics to provide meaningful connections. I end with the real-world example of Quora.com who are using Wikidata to manage a huge user-generated topic list.

Hypernyms and hyponyms

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A Reconciliation Recipe for Wikidata

We have a list of names of things, plus some idea of what type of things they are, and we want to integrate them into a database. I have been working on place names in Chinese, but it could just as well have been a list of author names in Arabic. This post reports on a procedure to get Wikidata identifiers — and thereby lots of other useful information — about the things in the list.

To recap a couple of problems with names covered in a previous post:

  • Things share names. As covered previously, “cancer” names a disease, a constellation, an academic journal, a taxonomic term for crab, an astrological sign and a death metal band.
  • Things have multiple names. One place is known to English speakers as “Beijing”, “Peking” or as “Peiping”. Similarly, there are multiple names for that place even within a single variant of Chinese.

There are some problems specific to historic names for places in China: Continue reading