Director, Digital Collections and Archives
LiAM (Linked Archival Metadata) is an Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded planning project focused on facilitating the application of linked data approaches to archival description. Despite the standardization and automation of archival description since the 1990s, primarily through the development and wide adoption of Encoded Archival Description (EAD), archivists still struggle with the challenge of describing complex archival collections. In particular, archival finding aids are not well suited for describing either records produced by complex organizations or composites of organizations, or electronic records and digital objects managed in digital environments such as databases and social network sites.
The distributed and dynamic nature of contemporary archival materials mirrors the evolving network of documents that is the World Wide Web. The architecture of the Web, in particular the approach described by linked data, a rich, semantically related data environment built into the Web’s architecture, provides a powerful set of tools for modeling complex relationships and providing dynamic and flexible access to information.
Most finding aids, archival collection descriptions often encoded in EAD, are hierarchical and linear narrative documents that take a top-down approach to archival description. The linear flow of the traditional finding aid closely mirrors the physical arrangement of the documents in hand, serving both as a description of the collection and as a map to where records are physically located on the actual shelves or within the actual boxes and folders.
LiAM envisions a different approach by leveraging the powerful reliance on linking inherent in the architecture of the World Wide Web itself. The approach of linked data uses the technology of the Web to define relationships between myriad resources. The LiAM Planning Project got underway in October 2012 and has laid a roadmap that is focused on identifying a graduated approach for archives at all levels to begin to expose their descriptions using linked data. The purpose of this session will be to present the outline of LiAM’s deliverables, share progress to date, and seek feedback.