Linked Open Data Overview

This resource is intended to give an overview of the benefits and challenges of opening up and semanticizing data, as well as the potential challenges an institution might face in doing so.

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List of abbreviations

Linked Open Data: A Short Introduction

Linked Open Data (LOD) methodologies are increasingly being advocated by the heritage community to structure, disseminate, exchange and use museum data. This approach relies on two essential principles:

  1. the data must be accessible under an open licence (i.e. having as few legal restrictions as possible, as these prevent reuse by third parties);
  2. the data must be linked on the basis of common and predefined standards (models and vocabularies).

In short, LOD are information shared under an open licence (with greater or lesser restrictions) and linked based on principles and technologies defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), Resource Description Framework (RDF), SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language (SPARQL) entry point, etc.). The use of common vocabularies to properly categorize and identify the data comprising this content, together with standardized data models, increases the usability of various computer applications. These applications can thus cross-analyze, interpret, reuse and contextualize this information, even if it initially comes from different sources. This means that information held by multiple institutions about the same item can be gathered and used easily and for the benefit of everyone, thus fostering the emergence of new inter-institutional knowledge.

Such sharing reduces the work involved in many facets of digital collection management by drawing on expertise and updates provided by other teams with established authority.

The use of LOD allows the burden of data management to be dispersed by:

Several external resources can be consulted within our Zotero library.

Linked Open Data for Cultural Institutions

At the moment, the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) is developing a model intended for Canadian collections of artefacts. Its facet dedicated to people and groups is currently being developed and will be tested shortly. The Objects facet of this Collections model is intended to be able to align with’s model for art institutions.

If, as an institution, you want to semanticize your data, CHIN would be happy to collaborate with you on this matter and advise you as best we can. As a general rule, you should take the following main elements into consideration:

You will find below a list of benefits and challenges that we have identified as part of our research. Keep in mind that many of the challenges can be mitigated by using a strategic approach.


LOD offer a number of advantages, especially when it comes to accessibility and visibility online. LOD are a set of tools and principles that can benefit heritage institutions because they can:

Institutions that do enter the open-access arena usually do so for the following reasons:


Feasibility Guidelines

In an interview with Jason Bailey, Neal Stimler suggested the following process to navigate the opening of your data (Bailey 2019: 1-2):

  1. Perform a thorough rights assessments using relevant resources such as:
    1. American Alliance of Museums
    2. CopyClear
    3. Copyright Checkpoint
    4. Copyright Cortex
    6. International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF)
    7. Collections As Data
    8. Museum APIs
  2. Consult with licensed legal counsel
  3. Build tools to provide mass self-serve access to data and digital asset sets. These tools typically come in the form of:
    1. A museum's collection on a website;
    2. A public application programming interface (API);
    3. A GitHub repository of data in the Comma-Separated Values (.CSV) and (JavaScript Object Notation) .JSON formats. Data should be offered with the same permissions and legal frameworks as associated image assets. The API serves application developers and partners, while .CSV and .JSON formatted data mainly support researchers and scholars.
  4. Ensure open-access content is hosted in partnership with crucial aggregation platforms such as Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons and Internet Archive.
  5. Ensure decisions are evaluated and made with respect to cultural and ethical considerations of open access in collaboration with communities and scholars.
  6. An internal working group or project team from relevant areas across the organization should be assembled. The internal group would be directed by a project manager who leads the project vision and has ultimate decision-making authority. Partnerships with allied organizations engaged with an institution’s users and working directly with Creative Commons is strongly recommended to implement best practices.

For more information on LOD, including an overview of best practices when publishing LOD, please refer to CHIN’s working documentation on the matter (please be advised that certain contents may only be available in French).

Selected Bibliography

Bailey, Jason. 2019. ‘Solving Art’s Data Problem - Part One, Museums’. Artnome (blog). 29 April 2019.

Data, Open Art. 2018. ‘Museums: Interactive Map with Wikidata’. Open Data Art (blog). 16 December 2018.

Edson, Michael Peter. 2019. ‘Wikimania 2019 Keynote Address’. Keynote presented at the Wikimania 2019, Stockholm, SE, April 29.

Goldman, Kathryn. 2018. ‘Open Access Images of Public Domain Work’. Creative Law Center (blog). 2018.

Hyland, Bernadette, Ghislain A. Atemezing, and Boris Villazón-Terrazas. 2014. “Best Practices for Publishing Linked Data.” W3C Working Group Note. January 9, 2014.

Kela, Riitta. 2019. ‘Opening Collections as Open Data: Challenges and Possibilities’. In Documenting Culture: A Culture of Documentation. International Council of Museums (ICOM). Tokyo, JP.

McCarthy, Douglas. 2019. ‘Licensing Policy and Practice in Open Glam’. Medium, 30 May 2019.

Oomen, Johan, Enno Meijers, and Wilbert Helmus. 2016. ‘Network Digital Heritage: Towards A Distributed Network of Heritage Information’. International Conference on Digital Preservation (IPRES). Amsterdam, NL: Dutch Digital Heritage Network.

Open GLAM. 2020. ‘Declaration on Open Access for Cultural Heritage’. 21 January 2020.

Open Knowledge Foundation. 2012. ‘Resources’. OpenGLAM. 27 November 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2021.

Openness: Politics, Practices, Poetics(PDF format). 2017. Living Archives. Malmö, SE: Malmö University.

Sanderhoff, Merete, ed. 2014. Sharing Is Caring: Openness and Sharing in The Cultural Heritage Sector. Copenhagen, DK: Statens Museum for Kunst.

Schrier, Bill. 2014. ‘Government Open Data: Benefits, Strategies, and Use’. The Evans School Review, Alumni Perspective, 4 (1): 12–27.

Stimler, Neal, and Louise Rawlinson. 2019. ‘Where Are The Edit and Upload Buttons? Dynamic Futures for Museum Collections Online’. In MuseWeb. Boston, MA: MuseWeb 2019.

Stinson, Alex. 2018. ‘Wikidata in Collections: Building a Universal Language for Connecting GLAM Catalogs’. Medium (blog). 9 April 2018.

Vathana, Anly, and Dev Pramil Audsin. 2013. ‘An Open Analysis on Open Data’ (PDF format). Submission paper. In Open Data on the Web, 4. London, GB: W3C.

Wallace, Andrea. 2017. ‘Access and the Digital Surrogate: Openness as a Philosophy’. presented at the National Digital Forum, Wellington, NZ, November 27.

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