Enhance access to culture & heritage collections - Commitment 8


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Lead implementing department(s)
Canadian Heritage
Reporting period

Mid-term (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017)

Commitment description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?

Canada is a vast country and access for many citizens to Canadian Culture and Heritage artefacts can be a challenge. Although an increasing proportion of Canadian Culture and Heritage artefacts are available in a digitized format, they are on individual websites and may still be difficult to find. This opens new opportunities to expand the scope and reach of Canadian museums and the social and economic benefits they deliver to Canadians. Using Linked Open Data approaches, this initiative will link the collections across Canadian museums forming a National Inventory of Cultural and Heritage Artefacts.

What is the commitment?

The Government of Canada will expand collaboration with its provincial, territorial, and municipal partners and key stakeholders to develop a searchable National Inventory of Cultural and Heritage Artefacts to improve access across museum collections.

How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?

In 2015-16, the Canadian Heritage Information Network Program partnered with eight art museums across Canada to develop an approach to link the collections of each museum with each other, and to related external resources, based on industry best practices (e.g., Linked Open Data). This work demonstrates the feasibility of using Open Data approaches to link collections across museums and other memory organizations.
Building on these results, the Canadian Heritage Information Network Program is developing and implementing a multi-year business strategy to work with the Culture and Heritage community to grow the network of linked collections through the Canadian Culture and Heritage Linked Open Data Cloud.

Relevance to OGP values

This commitment relates to the OGP values of transparency, civic participation, and public accountability.

Status update

Deliverables in Action Plan

  1. Develop authorities and standards to guide the consistent implementation of this approach.
  2. Enhance the ability to search and browse across museum collections.
  3. Expand the network of museums participating in this initiative and the links to related external resources.
  4. Host digital collections for museums that currently do not have a digital presence.

Expected result

Citizens will be able to browse, discover, share and re-use data on cultural and heritage artefact collections from Canadian museums.

Description of results

  1. In 2016-17, Canadian Heritage continued work on collecting data from four of the institutions involved in the 150 Years of Canadian Art project (Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Art Gallery of Ontario, the McCord Museum and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection). The domain was expanded beyond Canadian art to include objects from more varied collections such as Asian art, ethnology and costumes and textiles. Canadian Heritage developed a new site called the Canadian Heritage Information Network Program Linked Data Test site.

    As of June 2017, reference points for 14,885 terms from a recognized standard (nomenclature) were created, and records for 529 institutions, 794 groups (artist groups, organizations), and 60,575 persons were developed. These authorities will be used in future phases of the project.

  2. In addition to the reference points mentioned above, resource indicators were created for 166,762 objects. A taxonomy was also implemented as a search assistant, and a tabbed interface with multiple access points was developed.
  3. As of June 2017, 8 partner museums have joined the project: the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McCord Museum, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Musée des beaux arts de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Select data contributed by these institutions has been enhanced with linkages to Linked Open Data sources from around the world.
  4. No action taken on this deliverable to date.

Next steps to June 2018

  1. Based on lessons learned from the project to date, next steps to develop authorities and standards this year will include:
    • refining the data model,
    • selection of target ontologies,
    • elaborating a design for maintaining national authorities and linking them to existing global authorities, and
    • continuing to liaise with international bodies with expertise in this area.

    The data model will be the most important foundation piece to be developed this year.

  2. The lessons learned from this project and the improved interface will help Canadian Heritage to continue to improve access to online collections. We will work with international partners to develop a suitable data model based on best practices that will help to enhance the ability to search across museum collections. We will then work with Canadian museums to promote understanding and use of this model.
  3. Although the original commitment called for an expansion, Canadian Heritage is unlikely to be involving more partner institutions or adding more data in the coming year, given work needed to focus foremost on refining the data model and selecting tools.
  4. The creation of linked open data is a relatively new way of publishing data on the web, and standards and tools are still being developed. Canadian Heritage will be examining tools that are available for harvesting or collecting museum data, but due to the foundational work needed to harvest and provide a repository for digital collections for museums that currently do not have a digital presence, Heritage Canada will not be in a position to make progress on this deliverable within the time period of the Plan.

Completion level

  1. Limited
  2. Limited
  3. Not started
  4. Not started

Additional information

An evaluation of Canadian Heritage’s current projects (e.g., 150 Years of Canadian Art and the Canadian Heritage Information Network Program Linked Data Test Site) has revealed that they need to make some adjustments before scaling up to create 5-star data based on heritage collections from across Canada.

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