Discovering Hybrid Resources

Guest blog from Gill Briggs of the Royal Horticultural Society

gill1When I volunteered to write something for this blog about what I had learned from Bill Stockting’s talk (Discovering Hybrid Resources) at the last meeting, I hadn’t at the time realised how paltry my knowledge and understanding of some of the tools of our trade really was. Do I really understand the concepts of Linked Data? What exactly is RDF? What does HTTP stand for and why does it matter? Several hours down the line I had gleaned enough information from the world wide web (including a definition of the difference between this and the internet) to be able, hopefully, to enthuse about the opportunities in store for us all as we lay bare our metadata and share like there’s no tomorrow.

Here’s an example. The British Library provides public access to SoCAM – Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts. Mr Stockting demonstrated how a search here for Harold Pinter gives biographical notes and a high level of detail about archives relating to him in the BL, plus some information about other resources which one can go away and search for. Doing the same search in SNAC (Social Networking and Archival Context, under development in the US ), gives the biographical notes which, thanks to some crafty data linking, have been uploaded from the BL metadata. Additionally, resources can be accessed under a range of different headings – person, family and organisations – created by harvesting the data within the available resources rather than just linking the documents.

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There are also direct links to other archival collections similarly organised around the data (at Harvard, and the University of Guelph, for example), a picture from Wikipedia, a list of other collection locations and a nifty radial graph diagram which shows at a glance that Edna O’Brien was not only connected to Mr P but also to Philip Roth and Elizabeth Jane Howard. A world of information at my fingertips, allowing me to refine my search to take me in the direction I want to go, rather than aimlessly following hyperlinks to mystery destinations.

Is it the future? I hope so, and the quicker the better.

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