Exploring the Benefits for Users of Linked Open Data for Digitized Special Collections

Total Funding to Date



  • Tim Cole

This project, conducted collaboratively by the iSchool and the University Library, will further our understanding of four translational research questions:

  1. As compared to general collection catalog records, item-level metadata for digitized special collections are frequently more granular, richer in non-bibliographic entities, and expressed using custom vocabularies and schemas. What differences and additional challenges are encountered when transforming legacy special collections metadata records into LOD?
  2. Typically interfaces used to discover and view digitized special collections are disconnected from the online public access catalogs and ancillary services used to provide user access to general library collections. Can LOD reconnect library special and general collections?
  3. Digitized special collections are also disconnected from external, non-library information resources on the Web. How can LOD be leveraged to help identify and establish useful connections to these resources, and do non-library sources have the potential to enrich item descriptions and provide context for discovering and interpreting digitized special collections?
  4. Often descriptions of special collection items include extensive references to people and relationships. Can emerging visualization and annotation technologies add a social network view of a special collection that usefully complements traditional bibliocentric perspectives? 

The project will investigate these four questions and demonstrate findings concretely by transforming legacy string-based item-level metadata and then experimenting with user services for three modestly sized digitized special collections hosted by the University of Illinois: the Motley Collection of Costume and Theatre Design, the Portraits of Actors, 1720 – 1920 Collection, and the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research. The first two collections are typical of theatre-themed image special collections hosted in CONTENTdm or similar content management systems. While loosely based on Dublin Core (DC), the metadata schemas used for these digitized collections have been customized and extended to express attributes and types germane to such image collections. The Proust Archive metadata, on the other hand, are expressed using a profile of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) schema and provide context for Proust’s letters, literary works and relationships. The metadata for all three collections are rich in person, place and event entities, but these contrasts in descriptive model and collection content will allow us to highlight findings that have applicability beyond a single metadata schema or collection type. Additionally, working with three collections will help us differentiate between collection-specific and generic remediation and transformation requirements. Finally, because the Proust Archive metadata are especially rich in information about Proust's social relationships, they will provide good fodder for question 4 above.

Exploring the Benefits for Users of Linked Open Data project


  • Co-PI: Myung-Ja “MJ” Han, Metadata Librarian and Associate Professor, University of Illinois Library
  • Co-PI: Caroline Szylowicz, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Kolb-Proust Librarian and Associate Professor, University of Illinois Library

Funding Agencies

  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – $247,675.00
Research Areas: