Free Data for 2.4 Million European Culture Heritage Items

Basic CMYK Europeana recently launched an excellent short animation explaining what Linked Open Data is and why it’s a good thing, both for users and for data providers.  They did this in support of the release of a large amount of Linked Open Data describing cultural heritage assets held in Libraries, Museums, Galleries and other institutions across Europe.

The significant elements in the press release, from Europeana Professional (Europeana’s professional knowledge-sharing platform), are that they are releasing data for 2.4 million items, under a CC0 open data license, and it is Linked Data in RDF.

This is a wonderful resource, and example of European cooperation.

However, with my history of being critical of the European Data Model (EDM) that underpins this release of data, I followed some of the links to actual data with trepidation.   007000000000001U00031000[SVC2] This item from the British Library, has the following RDF representationapologies to the XML averse that clicked on that link.  As you will have seen if you did, there is zero descriptive information in that RDF – just links to more RDF.  Those willing to perceiver will find that by following one of the links in that data you get to more data that actually describes the thing in question.

Europeana, as an aggregator and proxy for data supplied by other institutions is in a difficult position.  They not only want to publish this information for the benefit of Europe and the wider world, they also need to maintain the provenance and relationships between the submissions of data from their partner organisations.  I believe that the EDM is the result of the second of these two priorities taking precedence.  Their proxy role being reflected in the structure of the data. The effect being that a potential consumer of their data, who is not versed in Europeana and their challenges, will need to understand their model before being able to identify that the Cartographer : Ryther, Augustus created the Cittie of London 31.

Fortunately as their technical overview indicates, this is a pilot and the team at Europeana are open to suggestion, particularly on the issue of providing information at the item level in the data model:

Depending on the feedback received during this pilot, we may change this and duplicate all the descriptive metadata at the level of the item URI. Such an option is costly in terms of data verbosity, but it would enable easier access to metadata, for data consumers less concerned about provenance.

In the interests of this data becoming useful, valuable, and easily consumable for those outside of the Europeana partner grouping, I encourage you to lobby them to take a hit on the duplication of some data.

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