Not so simple schemas

Over on Twitter, there’s been a few remarks from the UK about linked data and the desire to have, apparently, one schema or set of tags to rule them all. Nick Poole of the Collections Trust kicked off the discussion with his post about making museum information accessible online, in which he suggested that museums enter data into a template, which could then be marked up for online content ( He suggested as a possible solution.  In response, Richard Light, a freelance information designer, provided a critique and suggested that the problem is more about ensuring that data is structured appropriately in the first place (, both for the institution and for the collection level data.

As my poor students will tell you, I’m quite keen on structuring the data appropriately.  The International Council of Archives has already provided the International Standard for Describing Institution with Archival Holdings (ISDIAH), which could easily be expanded to other types of collecting institutions, and organisations with collections. It would provide, as Nick Poole suggested, not just the name, address and contact details of the institution, but it also includes many of the other elements that Nick identified. Much of the data can then be exported in Dublin Core, or EAD format, both of which are well accepted, and for which crosswalks to RDFa and JSON already exist.  Rather than creating new terms and vocabularies, maybe we should start by simply sharing and comparing standards of description and structuring our data in similar ways?




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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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