Since SAAM published our linked data, it has been ingested into the global Wikidata database, which is the free, linked open data backend to Wikipedia, across the encyclopedia’s 290 different languages.
Linked data doesn’t just hold promise for researching artists and creators, but also the information depicted within their works. For example, if all the worlds museums were using linked data, we could easily pull together all known portraits of the same sitter, regardless of who owns the artwork. This photograph in the National Portrait Gallery, London depicts the same sitter that Romaine Brooks does, though it took me some digging to find her, and to confirm her identity as the same woman. Since our two organizations used a different form of her name on our websites, it wasn’t actually that obvious.
And, as it happens, the Baroness Marie Rose Antoinette Catherine D’Erlanger had a lot of names. So there will always be variation from one institution to the next. But she has a unique identifier here in the Getty vocabularies, and also in VIAF, the virtual international authority file. So local variations in spelling or preferred form of name will matter less; we will still be able to trace the same sitter, if we are connecting to linked data from such popular sources.
Outside the realm of art history, what about the ability to bring information about a species of animal or plants depicted in a work of art? Romaine Brooks’ portrait depicts her sitter with an ocelot, a small, wild leopard from south America, which was sometimes kept as a pet.
It would be interesting to be able to visualize artistic representations of this animal across time. Or, to narrow down to a very specific time period, such as the decade when Romaine Brooks painted her portrait, the 1920s. You can imagine how scientists, or educators, might find it useful to be able to pull together all known depictions of a particular species from around the world. Linked data can make such a thing possible.
But for now, when I search for Ocelot, I find so many irrelevant items cluttering up my search results, including game characters, people with the last name Ocelot, and a music group called Ocelot. All of these images that you see came back in a Google image search, from an Ocelot fur coat to the image in the upper right, which is actually of a cheetah visiting a Paris café in the 1930s.
The promise of linked data is it will allow me to return the thing I want with great precision and accuracy: in this case, depictions of ocelots and artists, created during the 1920s.
*A note about Salvador Dali’s pet Ocelot. It was named Babou, and traveled all over the world with its famous master, including on a voyage aboard the ocean liner, S.S. France.
Linked Open Data at SAAM: Past, Present, Future
Linked Open Data at SAAM
Past, Present, and Future
October 3, 2016
Sara Snyder, Chief
Richard Brassell, Digital Engineer
Media andTechnology Office, Smithsonian American Art Museum
SAAM LOD: Past
2012-13 – Partnered with ISI to map SAAM’s
object & artist data to RDF and create linked
2014 –Finalized LOD URIs made public on
Smithsonian-hosted triple store
2015-16 – Mellon Foundation & IMLS
Leadership grants fund the AAC
SAAM LOD: Present
Are we really getting the maximum use out of
LOD that we could?
How can LOD publishing be integrated into
larger organizational goals:
• Platform modernization
• Open access for researchers
• Findability and SEO
• Reusable, flexible solutions
• Efficient workflows
SAAM LOD: Future
What might an LOD-enhanced object record
page or artist biography look like?
SAAM LOD: Future
More open data types and formats
• Beyond accessioned objects, publishing curatorial &
• Raw data exports hosted on GitHub
Better use of existing open data
• Leveraging LOD for in-house applications and websites
• Integrating semantic data/relationships into an API layer
• Stronger effort into semantic webpage metadata (Schema.org)
• Bot-powered updates into Wikidata