Tuesday, July 9, 2019

135 ANS authority records merged into SNAC

Finally, after fine-tuning the xEAC-to-SNAC publication workflow over the last few months after initially building this functionality into xEAC last summer, I have switched over to the SNAC production API. We have integrated authority data from 135 EAC-CPF records in the American Numismatic Society Biographies into the Social Networks and Archival Context project. Among these authority records are dozens of new ones inserted into SNAC, complete with biographical information and references to digital archival and library holdings at the ANS. One of the more notable additions to SNAC is Margaret Thompson, one of the most prominent Greek numismatists of the latter 20th century and a long-time curator at the ANS.

Not only have we provided a comprehensive biography of Margaret Thompson, but also URIs in other systems, such as VIAF and Wikidata.  The Bibliographic Resources for Thompson include numerous archival photographs (which link back to the ANS Archives--many of these are available in IIIF) and four ebooks in our Open Access Digital Library. These ebooks were digitized as part of the NEH-Mellon Foundation Open Humanities Book program.

SNAC record for Edward T. Newell, with biography from the ANS.

In fact, since many of the ~200 books digitized as part of this NEH-Mellon project were authored by prominent numismatists represented in the ANS archival authorities, 74 of these books have been made accessible to scholars through SNAC. This was the aim of our initial application to this grant program--finally realized by much work in extending xEAC to be able to interact with SNAC's JSON APIs. We not only wanted to create a large corpus of TEI ebooks that linked to URIs in our numismatic collection or research databases like Online Coins of the Roman Empire and the Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards (and similar systems), but to integrate these books into the larger cloud of cultural heritage data by linking the authors to large-scale authority systems like SNAC that could be leveraged to point researchers back to our own services.

SNAC was funded not only by Mellon (like our ebooks project), but also initially by the IMLS and the NEH. In this way, we are providing value to funders by building upon projects in which they have already invested: creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I hope that other institutions will look at xEAC and our broader archival LOD strategy (see Linked Open Data and Hellenistic Numismatics and Linked Open Data for Numismatic Library, Archive, and Museum Integration for further information about this architecture) as a means by which they too can enhance SNAC while simultaneously broadening access to their own materials.

By incorporating our archival authorities and digital archives and library into SNAC, we are providing pathways through broader, more generalized aggregators for non-numismatic researchers who may otherwise never think to query our archives directly. A great example of this is the record for the prominent sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This record links to more than 160 finding aids published by dozens of institutions, including museum archives, and so art historians may find correspondences in our archives as well as the Smithsonian Archives of American Art or the New York Public Library. Furthermore, since we have already used the Wikidata API look-up inherent to xEAC to embed related authority URIs in our own EAC-CPF record, we inserted the Getty ULAN URI for Saint-Gaudens into SNAC. This would, in theory, make it possible for SNAC to interact with art historical aggregators built on the Getty vocabularies to extract other works of cultural heritage, such as medals held at the American Numismatic Society or sculptures held in other art museums both in the United States and abroad.

I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what will be possible interacting with SNAC.

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