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Helping GLAMSs / cultural heritage organisations make content re-usable; helping programmers access cultural and historic content through open cultural data


Hello!  You're probably here for:


If you have some free time, the list of APIs needs to be tidied up a bit, and open cultural data releases (such as images online) could be put on a separate page - feel free to dive in and help out!


This started as a site for sharing, discussing, arguing (nicely) over and hopefully coming to some common agreements on APIs and data schemas for museum collections in the UK or worldwide but these days most of that content is retained purely for historical purposes. We've also had great discussions on Broadening hack days and problems open data could fix - join in! The #lodlam hashtag on twitter often has interesting links and conversations, as does #musetech.


Event history (going back to the 2010s)

Broadening Hack Days meetup


LOD-LAM London meetup


LOD-LAM (Linked Open Data for Libraries, Museums and Archives), San Francisco, June 2-3: LOD-LAM live blog

Session notes for: LOD-LAM microdata and schema(dot)org ;

LOD-LAM crowdsourcing, annotations and machine-learning

LOD-LAM Messy data and same-as

LOD-LAM crowdsourcing session notes



Linking Museums III - working with 'people' records


Notes from Linking Museum II meetup from London, September 27, 2010
Notes from the first Linking Museums write-up from the first 'Linking museums: machine-readable data in cultural heritage' meetup.


LODLAM-London October 6 (with Open Knowledge Foundation)




A note on definitions - this is about access to and re-use of cultural heritage data.  I'm pretty acronym agnostic, and apart from the resources required to re-write output scripts, I don't think acronyms compete.  Wikipedia defines 'API' (application programming interface) as "a set of functions, procedures, methods or classes that an operating system, library or service provides to support requests made by computer programs" - there's some discussion of implementation formats on the wiki if you want to dive in.  I find the navigation on wikis a bit annoying: here's a link of all the pages in this wiki so you can get a good overview of what's on the site.


If you want to get in contact, try @mia_out on twitter (unless your account is restricted, of course), or get my email address from the register your interest page.  Or just leave a comment somewhere appropriate!


What you can do - if you work in a museum

Any or all of these would be useful:

  • Upload or copy and paste some examples from your collections data schemas - whether that's nicely marked up xml, a table structure from the databases that feed your website, even plain old HTML from an online page.
  • Link to your API
  • List the functionality of your API (through documentation, examples, whatever)
  • Talk about how you decided how to implement your API
  • Share your questions, unresolved issues
  • Explain the project to your collections documentation people, and ask for their help
  • Subscribe to the 'recent changes' feed, and pop in when you see something that interests you


What you can do - if you are a developer

  • Try any of the APIs listed, report back - was it useful, could it be made more useful?
  • Tell us what do you look for in an API, or link to APIs you think are done really well
  • Subscribe to the 'recent changes' feed, and pop in when you see something that interests you


I'm not terribly sure how to organise a discussion like this, so I'm open to suggestions.  I'd also like to see some collections people contributing so feel free to invite non-technical people.


Please feel free to edit pages or add any stuff that you think might be of use.  If commenting feels more natural than editing a page, go for it.

Comments (14)

Mia said

at 12:39 am on May 6, 2009

'"You say potato and I say potahto . . . let's call the whole thing off"1 -- Some Thoughts on the Role of Standards and Specifications in Archaeology' [1] (phew, long title) quotes the Open Geospatial Consortium:

"It happens that standard data models and standard metadata schemas can be very useful even if no one follows them precisely. The standards will have an important role as "Rosetta stones" that enable users to "imperfectly" map data in a "local" data model to a common model, thus making their data "as useful as possible" to others. One-to-one mapping of data models is unworkable when there are thousands of models to map between" (OGC 2009 www.opengeospatial.org/ogc/faq/openness).

[And adds]: "There are a lot of other useful insights on the OGC web page dealing with "openness" but the point here is that even when the specification process is not perfect it can still play a very important role in moving a community of practice forward. It can improve interoperability and also throw a bright light on the areas of both consensus and difference."

[1] http://csanet.org/newsletter/spring09/nls0903.html

Amir Taj said

at 4:53 pm on May 6, 2009

Mia said

at 1:12 pm on May 7, 2009

Thanks for the link, Amir! And it's nice to have you around :)

I was just coming on to link to the JISC 'Good APIs' report - you can download the whole thing or comment on individual sections at http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/good-apis-jisc/

Paolo Viscardi said

at 10:17 pm on Jan 20, 2010

Hi Mia, thanks for setting this up!

Mia said

at 12:12 am on Jan 21, 2010

Yay, thanks for coming to play!

Andy Mabbett said

at 1:01 pm on Apr 16, 2010

I've added a page on microformats - happy to discuss!

John S. Erickson, Ph.D. said

at 4:04 pm on Apr 26, 2010

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the recent announcement by Facebook of Open Graph? http://developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraph

Seems like this is a major endorsement of RDFa and the concept of "liking" objects into the social graph creates more of a need for esp. museum linked data?

Mia said

at 2:39 pm on Jul 10, 2010

Hi John,

I haven't followed the open graph discussions too closely, but it does seem like a step towards widespread adoption. Facebook 'like' still seems fairly volatile but the model itself is interesting.

cheers, Mia

Neil Smith said

at 2:48 pm on Oct 19, 2010

Hi Everyone,
I work for Knowledge Integration Ltd and we are technical partners to Collections trust in the delivery of Culture Grid. Some of you might know me or my colleagues Ian Ibbotson, Rob Tice and Rich Bruin.

To support the ambitious targets for increasing the number of item records in Culture Grid, we thought know would be a good time to review the venerable old application profile we use for importing metadata into the Grid. I've added a discussion page reviewing options at http://museum-api.pbworks.com/w/page/Culture-Grid-Profile.

We really want the community to be involved in helping ensure that whatever profile (or profiles) we support will meet the needs of users - not only for getting things into the grid but also for getting things out in a format that is useful to them. Although the paper focusses mainly on XML representations of metadata, we're also interested in your views on whether non-XML representations (e.g RDF or JSON) need to be supported.

Please feel free to add your comments and to circulate the URL to anyone else you know who might be interested in contributing.



Mia said

at 4:47 pm on Oct 24, 2010

Hi Neil,

thanks for posting, and for giving us a chance to have input into your improvements.

Based on other conversations with developers, I'd say JSON would be requested by more people than RDF as it's seen as a more accessible format.

cheers, Mia

Susan Chun said

at 12:14 am on Feb 27, 2011

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd mention that several members of the LAM community--including me, Piotr Adamczyk (MMA), Michael Lascarides (NYPL), and John Gordy (NGA)--just attended the two-day NEH-funded API Workshop at MITH (the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland).

Of particular interest to this group was a breakout session that we organized during the unconference portion of the workshop to address the topic, "Authoring a Collection API." We hoped to look at two questions: 1) applying what we had learned about best practices for authoring an API to APIs specific to cultural collections and 2) trying to determine whether it would be useful/practical/possible to align API authoring practices across our institutions, i.e. defining common/shared API methods for accessing collections (without abstracting collection elements so much that the exercise would be pointless). Our notes are at http://bit.ly/hTzteK. As ever, it was difficult to move the discussion past the persistent problem of metadata standards. Members of the group did try hard to abstract some of the concepts related to "bounding" or organizing collection information, and to identify some APIs that were considered exemplary, but it was clear at the end of the session that more discussion/investigation is necessary.

It was interesting to see the work of our colleagues in the academic humanities and to renew discussions with the folks at Freebase (now comfortably settled at Google). Do check out the workshop website (http://mith.umd.edu/apiworkshop/), which will eventually contain video of the presentations, many of them quite interesting.


Mia said

at 11:54 am on Mar 3, 2011

Thanks Susan!

jeffreynewman said

at 3:35 pm on Jul 28, 2011

I'm an interested outsider, seeing museums as the fount of knowledge for 'sustainability,' which is my interest via http:// www.earthcharter.org This has emerged after attending a couple of conferences, one on 'Growth and Sustainability' in the UK 'eastern region'; another on digitalisation at the British Museum, where I understood little but became very excited! At both these meetings, the dedication of young museum staff and their recognition of the issues which we all face was apparent and exhilarating.

I'm currently in the British Library, attempting to write a blog drawing together the strands of my interests, which are essentially - What can we do, together, to save our world?

Naturally, this is an ontological question, in the sense that we may need to define what we mean by 'world' but this evening Church House museum in Barnet is being 'auctioned off' by the local authority, and I have worked recently quite closely with the curator of the Russell-Cotes museum in Bournemouth (since Bournemouth has endorsed the Earth Charter).

I've arrived at this somewhat academic web-site because of a fascinating and generous tweet by Mia yesterday, linking with a wonderful presentation http://bit.ly/pj9nYQ entitled 'The Big Tent and Digital Humanities' where Melissa Terras is using some circus images to make some points (I sent it to a circus friend who sadly found it too technical.)

My 'blog' is entirely following that presentation: it is about the extraordinary power of image, internet - the speed & depth of possible communication and the need and hope for dialogue and collaboration.

This may not add much to your discussion - but it helps me to make it. Time is short, and the work is urgent....

Mia said

at 11:55 pm on Aug 1, 2011

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeffrey, and I hope your blog writing went well.

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