JISC – Open Book Project

releasing open data for illuminated manuscript collection records and research…

Benefits of our approach

The primary focus of Open Book has been to release open data about the collections in the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as to explore how we go beyond item level data and link to related resource information and research activity data.

A fundamental building block of the project was to first establish an organisational position on open data – how we define it and what it means to us. We had to ensure that we had an understanding of open data and were prepared to release it. So, the issue of licensing reared its head. But before that we tried to formalise a description of the types of data that, as a museum,  we deal with and, in particular, clarify what we meant by metadata. With that distinction in place, internal advocacy for open data was easier. In the end it has led to a layered approach, with a basic set of metadata (aimed specifically at resource discovery and aggregation) being dedicated to the public domain and more detailed data licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike. The latter can still be defined as an open licence but recognises the curated nature of this data and the significance (in academic terms) of attribution of source.

The next question was how we were going to release this data and I have to admit we have taken a scattergun approach. Metadata is made available via OAI-PMH for harvesting. Fuller data sets are offered via an API, returning JSON responses, and a SPARQL endpoint using RDF and mapping to the CIDOC-CRM. We have conceived this as a data service that complements our web presence and online catalogue. Achieving this has taken time and technical resources that would have been difficult to access without the Open Book project. The uptake and value of each of these can only be properly assessed over time. If we had to focus on a single aspect of this, perhaps the path with the potential for greatest returns would be the release of open metadata (whether through OAI or some other data feed) to the Culture Grid and subsequently to Europeana. The sector context of such aggregations is likely to offer users the most benefit, in the short term at least.

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