LODLAM 2020 Review


It's been a year since LODLAM 2020 took place at The Getty in LA, right before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. It seemed that my bags were barely unpacked that things went dramatically wrong as venues, institutions and cities began shutting down. Rush hour downtown Toronto was an odd spectacle of office workers awkwardly taking their computer monitors with them on commuter trains, ready for an extended period away from work. All of us ended up in one of two categories: those forcibly (and frustratingly) idled and those run ragged trying to keep the lights on. 2020 was for many a "lost year" of extremes where we did our best not to drop too many balls along the way.

A year late, here is my LODLAM 2020 recap:

Science Stories wins the contest.Science Stories was the winner of the LODLAM challenge, featuring a biography of Grace Hopper and others. The demo website seems to be having hiccups but the challenge video is still up here. The list of entries is contained here and consisted of Biography SampoCenter for Integrated StudiesThe Israel MuseumAmerican Art CollaborativeExpLODLD4P Questioning Authority and Golden Agents.

Sessions included "Then What? User Interfaces for LOD", "LOD Education and Training", "How to get colleagues excited / Uncertainties in LOD", "Software Implementation, MetaPhacs, BIBFRAME", "Modeling Exhibitions / Machine Readable Profiles / Pragmatic Approaches", "Wikidata Best Practices", as well as a less-than-curated list of links

The takeaway, 10 years after this unconference started, is that LODLAM is still a mixed bag: some people are at the bleeding edge while others are not quite there yet. There has been criticism that LODLAM has become more of a destination unconference rather than one where things get done. There is likely some truth to this, but formalizing the unconference further will likely pigeonhole it into a topic silo preventing a multidisciplinary approach.

Cultural Institutions Under Lockdown

A certainty is the value of properly curated and structured data. Streaming services like Amazon Prime Video are booming with the lockdowns and are taking advantage of resources such as IMDB to create very complex and effective recommendation systems. I'm highlighting Amazon Prime's Xray system in particular for its ability to repurpose metadata. Depending on the show and episode, pop-ups for additional content such as shooting locations, show trivia and supporting actor movie recommendations appear on the screen. One feature that I found especially intriguing was the use of some clever computing to link scene background music to band and title data. That alone has probably done more for smaller indie bands in the past year than anything else. Surprisingly, the technology and data to do this has been available for years.

On the museum side, it will be interesting to see what lockdown measures will have forced cultural institutions to consider. If your primary attraction can no longer be accessed, how can its data be used to support its educational mission? Putting on my military history hat for a second, I want to point out the work done by the staff of the Battleship New Jersey Museum who have been funding their museum by having their curator create video after video of inaccessible parts of the ship to keep the museum funded. It isn't linked open data, but it is a great example of simple technologies giving access to ship locations, such as the electrical trunks and shaft alley, that will never be accessible to the public for safety reasons.

Document, Document, Document!

The author about to rant about documentation.Back to LODLAM itself: I wanted to follow up to my comments during the dork shorts (and while jogging up and down the auditorium stairs with a microphone) about documentation and communication. The primary benefit of linked open data is the ability to communicate context and knowledge that would otherwise be implicit and thus lost. However, that requires that you understand your own data and, very frankly, most people don't.

The reasons for this can be blind adherence to standards, a focus on the artifacts over the data about the artifacts and a view of data as "an IT thing" - as one participant put it: "You programmers, you're never any good at documenting things". (Maybe it's a bit much to expect them to do theirs jobs, be an expert on  Sumerian art and guess correctly at what wasn't written down?) Bad communication is not only a LAM issue: computing is collectively making a experiment with "Documentation by Blog Post"1 instead of official documentation that I personally find horrifying and doomed to failure. On the Academic side, editors have been working on supporting "Data Papers" through publishers and data archiving through archiv and zenodo. These are all good ideas, but remember that if you can't understand your own data or you don't communicate its significance using LOD principles, the patrons consuming your data aren't likely to do so either.

Looking forward to 2022!

In closing, I'd like to plagiarize the advice given by Charlie Clarke to the subsequent organizing committee to SIGIR 2003 that took place during the first SARS outbreak: "Don't invent a new disease!". Fingers crossed that things will return to normal in a year. Rumours of a LODLAM 2022, possibly in Europe, are still floating around the ether...

Best of health from the LODLAM 2020 committee: @joanbcobb @adrianstevenson @ewg118 @muninn_project @ccthompson @marciazeng 

Posted By warren read more

Vimy Ridge Day WWI Project Roundup


On April 9th, 1917 the Canadian Corps attacked the German positions on Vimy Ridge. In honour of the 101st anniversary, here is a short roundup of WW1 projects and efforts that are ongoing. 

  1. Bert V. de Bruijn of fame is still working on making a ridiculously detailed map of the battle of Vimy Ridge and has setup a task manager for Open Historical Map to digitize the trench maps from the McMaster Trench Map Collection
  2. Erik Hellstedt in Belgium is working on animating the First World War using Commonwealth War Graves Commission data. 
  3. Heather Pretty from Memorial University has been working on generating more linked open data for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the war, including personnel data.
  4. Stan Hebben and Dries Chaerle at the In Flanders Fields Museum in Belgium are running a project "The Names List"  to collect information about victims – both military and civilian – which died in Belgium during the course of (and due to) the First World War
  5. Warren Lewington has been working on artillery logistics on the Western Front (2 Minute Video here, PDF Project Description).
  6. Bill Frost has built an awesome Trench Mapping application for tracking events on the Western front. 


Aware of another project? Please reach out to @muninn_project!

Posted By warren read more

Reactivating the ADHO Linked Open Data SIG


After a hiatus of some years, the ADHO Linked Open Data Special Interest Group is being reactivated under the joint leadership of trouble makers Molly Hardy and Rob Warren. 

The original mission of the ADHO Linked Open Data (LOD) SIG was "to bridge between the DH community and the semantic web community of practice, encouraging and facilitating the interconnection and interoperability of open online Humanities resources, by raising awareness of new developments (both content and technology) and discussing and developing best practices".

So far the adoption of Linked Open Data (LOD) has been modest in the DH community. It still shows promise as a means of publishing and exchanging data between projects and the creation of ontologies using semantic web standards as a means of communicating complex abstractions and negotiating areas of consensus merits further study. 

Some of the obstacles that are ongoing include poor user and developer-oriented tools, lack of standardization within domains of study, concerns over the applicability of discrete ontologies to complex humanities discourse and limited 'clean' data sources with which to begin publication. 

This list is not exhaustive and additions are welcome.

Please join us on the LOD SIG mailing list for further discussions about moving things forward. Submissions can be made to and list registration can be made at

Posted By warren read more

Canadian Linked Data Summit: A Year After


It has been a year to the day that the Canadian Linked Data Summit occurred in Montreal in 2016. The event was to push the deployment of Linked Open Data approaches in Canadian institutions who were perceived not to be as advanced as their European and American counterparts. The presentation by MJ Suhonos Linked Open Data in Canada: Behind the Curve [1] caught my eye with its candid review of the situation in Canada.

Posted By warren read more

CanLink: Linked Open Theses


CanaLien : un projet de données liées pour les thèses Canadiennes - CanLink : a linked data project for Canadian theses is now online!

CanLink is a collection of thesis data from collaborating institutions part of the Canadian Linked Data Initiative. It features over 5,000 theses from participating Canadian universities[1] on a broad range of topics, from "post-humans" to "mechano-electric feedback" with new theses being added on an ongoing basis. The project is an initiative of the Digital Projects committee of the Canadian Linked Data Initiative with the development work done by Sharon Farnel, Rob Warren and Maharsh Patel[2].

The data set is described in void / dcat format and is also registered in the Data Hub. The virtual machine is provided by West Grid and the domain name is provided by the University of Alberta.

Posted By warren read more

Linked Open Data: We Need Cool Tools


A disturbing trend emerged during both LODLAM 2017 in Venice, Italy and Digital Humanities 2017 in Montreal, Canada concerning Linked Open Data and the semantic web in general. Both conferences were chalk-full of projects that were either creating data or thinking of publishing their data as Linked Open Data, but very few projects dealt with the consumption of the data. When the topic of consuming LOD is discussed, it is in the context of faceted search or style discovery. This is problematic because we are not leveraging the linkages of the data and the work done within the project ontologies. And... who really wants to look at triples? The Linked Open Data tools available so far (Pelagios CommonsTrench Map Converter) tend to be highly integrated with the data of the organization that created it, if we are to move on with this technology we need tools that apply to multiple datasets.

Scrambling for sessions at LODLAM 2017The LODLAM 2017 session Cool tools was well attended by over 30 people crowding around the tables in the Salone Degli Arazzi about cool tools to consume LOD. Oddly, most of the tools discussed were still of the backend or engineering variety. With production getting so much attention, the lack of thought about consumption is concerning: What do we expect end-users and scholars to do with this data? When asked what tools they would like to see, the session members still talked about workflow toolchains and backend facing processes. This isn't unexpected as LAM practitioners worry about their day to day responsibilities first and foremost. Enrichment and creating linkages were similarly popular topics as people wanted to cross-link their datasets on a larger scale than is possible with manual methods. For all of the work entailed, it is all primarily a straight-forward engineering problem. 

Posted By warren read more

The Geometries of Vimy Ridge, 100 years ago


The Battle of Vimy Ridge began 100 years ago on April 9th through 12th, 1917. It holds importance in the Canadian consciousness in that this was the first time that the Canadian Corps fought as a single unit on the Western Front with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Division deployed side-by-side1. With a lot of patient geo-referencing work and a joint efforts between Muninn, the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group and Wikiwar, a number of the units locations, place names and trenches have been extracted. The simplest way at the moment to visualize the locations is through the Open Historical Map which is an OSM-like website that records historical mapping data and can export the raw geometries for further use. 

At the time of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Headquarters of the Canadian Corps were located near Camblain-l'Abbé  (Painted by David B. Milne in 1917). The 1st Canadian Division Headquarters was located in Écoivres near the banks of the La Scarpe river. It's troops were the southernmost deployed with the 17th Corps at their right and the 2nd Canadian Division at their left. The 2nd Canadian Division Headquarters was in a farmer's field near route D58 (There is a google street view pictures of the houses and farms at that current location). The 3rd Canadian Division was next to the left and the 3rd Canadian Division Headquarters was located in Villers-au-Bois. The 4th Division was the northernmost with its flank against the 1st Corps and the 4th Division Headquarters located in a farmer's field near route D65.

How accurate is this information?

A survey section during the war would be expected to triangulate a feature within 20 yards while out in the field. In actuality areas of high activity were well surveyed and the accuracy of a trench map is often within 5 yards for important features. Since we used hand tracing to extract the trenches some inaccuracy is to be expected. One can do much better by creating a line finding algorithm that traces the trench based on colour separation and that will be the topic of future work. The figure to the right is an overlay of the German trenches extracted from a trench map over the Open Street Map's rendering of the current preserve trenches at the Vimy Ridge Memorial. The alignment is not perfect, but sufficient for way-finding purposes.

The location of the Headquarters and the area of operations of the different Divisions, Brigades and Battalions are derived from an aggregate map that was reprojected based on landmarks contained within the current landscape and those within other georeferenced trench maps of the period. The original map was not to scale and large (a 100 meters of so) errors in location can be expected. Of course, features such as a Battalion's area of operations are very large and even a Brigade headquarters involves multiple tents and/or buildings. The map locations on the original source map were simple icons which created their own spatial inaccuracies and one should expect large errors in the actual location. Whenever possible, you should use these features as general areas and not consider their centroid as the ground truth.

This represents the best information currently available and the geometries will improve over time as more information is unearthed. All of these geometries are available from the Open Historical Map's export function which works with all of the tools that were designed for the Open Street Map. 

Where did you get this information?

The trenches and trench name information were extracted from maps M_81_000287 and M_89_000382 in the Imperial War Museum's archive.  The parameters for the reprojection are described in [1], [2] and this ontology document. Tracing was done manually and exported to both shape files and RDF before being imported to the Open Historical Map. 

The location of the headquarters and units during the onset of the battle are derived from the aggregate "map 7" from the Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 ([3]). The original book was scrubbed for image quality and reprocessed by the good folks at the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group before its map was reprojected and bounding areas created before being exported to the Open Historical map.

1. The 5th Canadian Division was not fully formed at the time and it's units were absorbed by the other Divisions.


Posted By warren read more

Time to say goodbye to an old friend


When the Muninn Project started several years ago, it was a wild idea that started at the paper napkin stage and that slowly evolved into one of the more complex projects in the Linked Data Cloud today. Along the way, Muninn's mascot Le Corbeau was chosen, as designed by "Steve" on a free CC clipart site which has since disappeared along with any lineage and provenance data. While at the time that decision seemed sound, it isn't great not knowing the status of an abandoned clip art and to this end, we ended up asking a designer to create a version of the Corbeau specially for Muninn. The designer is Erin Windrim from Toronto who also released her work under the Creative Common license. She's currently working on the next batch of stickers that you you'll be able to get at a future conference!

Posted By warren read more

LOD at #dh2015, #lodlam and #ww1hack in Sydney, Australia


It was a busy July in Sydney Australia for everyone with the LODLAM Summit, Digital Humanities Conferences and World War One hack day back to back!

Posted By warren read more

One URI for the Great War


The Great War occurred again during a session at the #lodlam Summit in Sydney that was held in the Mitchell Library and hosted by the State Library of New South Wales.

One of our conversation turned on the use of a global subject identifier for the Great War since most systems still represent it as a series of strings: "The Great War, Great War (1914-1918), World War One, WW1, etc... Furthermore, different nations entered the conflict at different times (The United States entered the war in 1917) which implies that the event is seen as matching or not different views of the event, e.g.: Great War (1914-1918) versus Great War (1917-1918).

To get around this we created a global URI for any and all aspects of the Great War:

The term contains labels in several languages that we will keep adding on to and the human-readable term definition is "Any data related to the Great War" which should be wide enough for all usage. You don't need to agree with this definition: through the use of OWL, OWL2 and SKOS vocabularies you can further refine your own collection subject heading by linking to the above URL. The linking aspect is what will enable more people to find you collection and its holdings.

So, if you have a collection or items that are about anything related to the Great War, do:

  • Use the term directly as a subject heading, OR:
  • owl:sameAs's to it with your own subject heading, OR:
  • owl:differentFrom to it if you disagree with how we are going about this, OR:
  • skos:exactMatch to it if you live in the SKOS world and agree with the term, OR:
  • skos:closeMatch to it if you live in the SKOS world and the term is close to what you think the Great War should be, OR:
  • skos:broadMatch to it if you live in the SKOS world and the term is too broad for your needs, OR:
  • rdf:subClass to it if you live in the OWL/RDF world and the term is too broad for your needs, BUT:

Do link to the term if you are working on the Great War. Linking is the only way we are going to get Linked Open Data working for everybody.


Posted By warren read more


Subscribe to The Muninn Project RSS