The first week of February I had the pleasure and the honor of attending the Linked Open Data in Libraries, Archives and Museums (LODLAM) 2020 Summit at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a whirlwind of ideas, energy and camaraderie packed into a two-day time frame. The summits are generally held bi-yearly, the first taking place in 2011 in San Francisco. I’m a relative newcomer to LODLAM, having attended only one other summit, in Venice, Italy in 2017. Read about the background of LODLAM, or check out the 2020 Conference Notes.
At the Conference
The first session I attended on Day 1 was titled Then What: Making LOD Datasets a Good Representable System to Access. Duane Degler of Design for Context led a fantastic discussion about how we can and should serve our users through the interfaces we build to make our data accessible. This question has particular resonance for us in the CH Data Lab as we work to improve our own discovery layer in order to demonstrate the value of LOD, both to build support internally for these efforts, and to provide greater, more useful access to all.
The second session dealt with Uncertainties in LOD Statements. The answer? I don’t know, but uncertainty sure generates a lot of discussion. It was a fascinating conversation of the myriad ways we try to thread the needle between specificity, context, and vagueness in the collections we work with and how we describe them. We all recognize that uncertainty is part of the game for information professionals, yet while we strive to be transparent and honest in our approaches, uncertainty can translate into tension when openness collides with professional ethics.
While the loosely structured un-conference format stimulates a great deal of free and inspired discussion, it also relies on one or two attendees from each session to be volunteer note takers. Sadly, the last Day 1 session I attended, a small but intensely stimulating group discussion about Using Who’s on First Gazetteer to Model Collections, was not captured in the notes so I wanted to share what I recall from the conversation here. Aaron Cope of the SFO Museum talked about using the gazetteer model to organize museum collections around the idea of place, rather than a more typical person- (creator-) centric model. Not being a museum person and having only a rudimentary grasp of the tech side of gazetteer data, a lot of the conversation went zooming over my head, but I really enjoyed the spirited and deeply-stimulating discussion, in particular between Aaron and David Newbury, software and data architect for the Getty, which felt like equal parts high-level knowledge organization and philosophy (I have to give credit to Elizabeth Neely of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for that great observation).
Day 1 culminated with the chance for me to deliver my very own “Dork Short” (a super-fast lightning talk) about the CH Data Lab. I took my place in line, and when my turn came, after blowing precious seconds fumbling with the room laptop, brought up our Data Lab site on the big screen. My colleague Sarah Ann Adams from the Semantic Lab at Pratt captured my 2 minutes of glory in a tweet with a photo that had the CH Data Lab looking like it was on a stadium JumboTron. Cue the theme from Rocky.
Day 2 highlights included a wide-ranging discussion of Wikibase (who’s using it; pros and cons; its relationship to Wikidata and reasons for using one or the other for collection information) and a great roundtable on LOD in the performing arts. It was wonderful to regroup with old faces from the Venice LODLAM (Beat Estermann from Bern University of Applied Sciences) and make new connections (Birk Weiberg from the Swiss Archive of Performing Arts, Amye McArther of the New Museum, Jonathan Lill from MoMA) who are interested in and actively working on performing arts-related LOD projects.
Some of the best, most thought-provoking discussions I experienced took place after hours, during the opening reception on Day 1 and a visit to the Santa Monica Brew Works on Day 2, both of which spilled over into hangs in the bar/restaurant at Hotel Angeleno, with its sweeping 17th-story view of Los Angeles.
As I regroup with my CH Data Lab colleagues here in NYC, my brain filled to overflowing with new ideas and questions, I look forward to rolling up my lab coat sleeves, turning up the Bunsen burner, and stirring our LOD beaker!
- Rob Hudson (Manager, Carnegie Hall Archives)