Usable Authorities for Data-driven Cultural Heritage Research

Written by Linnéa Lundin

In September 2020 we at NHM, toghether with Nationalmuseum and Wikimedia Sweden, applied for part of the research and development grant that is distributed by the National Heritage Board to central museums.

The project Usable Authorities for Data-driven Cultural Heritage Research was funded and we started working in February 2021. The project focuses on exploring Wikidata as a vocabulary source for cultural heritage institutions. We want to take a closer look at the benefits that linked cultural heritage data via Wikidata can offer. The project runs for one year (2021), with the possibility of extension.

Biographical data

To delimit the project, we start by linking datasets that describe people born between 1500 and 1800 in the collections of Nationalmuseum and the National Historical Museums of Sweden. Since authority data in the form of persons names is a basic building block for metadata about museum collections, we think it is a good place to start.

Nationalmuseum and the National Historical Museums of Swedan have large amounts of biographical data on historical persons, registered and documented in different ways in the various collections. The hypothesis is that an interconnection of biographical authorities will be able to give users of the interconnected data new insights into historical contexts and networks between people.

Analyse, visualize and discover

In the project, we want to find out if and how interconnected cultural heritage data can increase data-driven research on digitized cultural heritage collections. By linking the museum collections’ biographical records on Wikidata, we create opportunity for users to analyze and visualize connections between historical persons and collection data.

We will also ourselves create visualizations with the interconnected data. Hopefully then the project will be able to show the benefits with linked open cultural heritage data with visualizations as well as contributing to a rich and updated data source on Wikidata around our collections’ biographical information – open and easy to use for anyone.

Clean and match

In the current phase of the project, we are intensive working to organize and improve the information that is registered in our collection management systems, so that we can match the museums’ information with that in Wikidata via the tool OpenRefine. We have also already been able to match a small part of the two collections’ personal records to each other via Wikidata. Here are all Wikidata objects that have both NHM and Nationalmuseum ID at this point.