What do we do?

Enriching war newspapers with linked data

How can linked data make it easier to search and find information in our newspaper database? What exactly is linked data, and does it have any added benefits? We found out for ourselves in 2018. You can read what we discovered, and how we applied it, here.

What is linked data?

Linked data enables you to make connections between things – data – on the internet. Publishing your data in a structured way like this means you – and third parties, whether they are people or machines – can then link this information together, enabling better semantic search queries. In other words, linking the data allows databases to speak the same language and understand each other better. We use web technologies to make data available in such a way that computers can read it automatically. Data that is connected to other data is called linked data. 

Specifically: if you search online for terms like ‘Albert I of Belgium’ and ‘Albert Leopold Clemens Marie Meinrad’, you will see (partially) different search results, even though you’re ultimately searching for the same person. The reason for getting these different search results is that web documents are linked together, but the content of these documents isn’t. Linked data means you can also link the content, so you should find the same search results.

Wat can you do with linked data?

Enriching your website or database with linked data has various benefits. First and foremost, your data is easier to search and find for machines, e.g. search engines, because they understand the structure of your data. This can result in a search engine like Google highlighting a number of items from your website – such as your address, opening times or significant works in your collection – in its search results.

By linking the content, you’re placing your data in a much broader context. For example, people’s names from newspaper articles in the News of the Great War collection are now linked to names in the List of Names database published by In Flanders Fields Museum (read how we found these links in this techblog). This enables biographical information about the people (such as their profession, parents’ names, date and place of birth, and date and place of death, etc.) to be displayed even though it doesn’t appear in the newspaper articles: a clear enrichment in terms of content.

Furthermore, anyone can interpret the data and, depending on the licence, re-use it – within your own organisation and elsewhere. So you’re not hindered by your data not being clearly described (e.g. using your own parameters) or difficult to access (e.g. published in an Excel file). The data isn’t simply ‘open’, however; The Archive’s terms of use still apply to the OCR versions – the actual texts – from our newspaper collection.

Linked data also increases your data’s exchangeability, and it has become a standard for sharing this information. Important international data-sharing platforms, such as Europeana and Wikidata, are already benefitting from linked data.