Group shot of approximately 30 people standing and smiling in a library meeting room

Participants at the first in-person Forum meeting, held in October 2016 at Cornell’s Albert R. Mann Library. See the participant list here. Photo: Joan Cobb

Joan Cobb, a Getty IT project manager who focuses on resources for the scholarly community, is a participant in the IMLS Shareable Authorities Forum organized by Cornell University Library. The Forum’s second in-person convening was held April 10–11 at the Library of Congress, and a concluding white paper will be released this summer. Cornell has just posted a summary of the meeting on the project wiki.

The Forum, which began in spring 2016, is exploring strategies for “radical collaboration” in the practice of creating and sharing authorities of cultural heritage data. Authorities are repositories of records—such as artists’ names, geographic places, and cultural heritage terms—that assist in cataloguing and accessing archival, library, and museum collections. The Forum brings together representatives of data providers (such as Europeana, the National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress, and the Getty) and data consumers (such as the Cornell, Stanford, and Smithsonian Libraries). Through the Forum, experts are discussing and documenting best practices, open questions, and next steps for the field. The two in-person meetings supplement conversation conducted throughout the year through a project wiki and Google Docs.

The shift to Linked Open Data, including at the Getty, is necessitating radical changes to institutions’ approach to providing name repositories. Making this open world interoperable, usable, and meaningful to end users who employ it for cataloguing, searching, and access is “an ongoing quest that’s going to be one of the more interesting challenges the cultural heritage technology community, including the Getty, will face over the coming years,” Joan says.

Some of the questions and discussions that emerged at the April meeting that were most interesting to Joan include:

  • What are the responsibilities of a data provider in today’s new world of open and linked data, especially in terms of services to link and synchronize?
  • What are the responsibilities of the data consumer, especially in terms of new job skills for the cataloguer?
  • What are the responsibilities of the local authority that wants to contribute to the larger picture?
  • What’s missing in services to users, and what do we recommend to correct the situation?

Joan is participating in creating a Shareable Authorities Forum white paper addressing these questions, which will be assembled and edited by Cornell and published by IMLS in late summer 2017. The white paper should be of particular interest to data providers, offering tools to help adopt standardized methods, specifications, and services.

Based on the Getty’s participation in the Forum, Joan and her Getty colleagues are already defining next steps for the Getty’s Linked Open Data development, especially in the area of data reconciliation. “We don’t know yet how we’ll be able to be most helpful to the cultural heritage community,” notes Joan, “so ongoing conversation is very important.”