Monthly Archives: January 2015

Workshop: Biographical augmentation of collection databases

On Wednesday 14 January 2015 we organize an expert meeting about “biographical augmentation of collection databases”.

Within the CANAAN project we investigate the possibilities of augmenting a museum collection database with (structured) biographical data from external resources. As several posts on this blog testify this is not as straight forward as it might seem. In the workshop we will present the results we have achieved so far and an overview of the challenges we have encountered. Then we will open the floor for e general discussion about the perils, possibilities and prospects of linking collection databases to external resources.

This workshop is targeted at specialists in the field of collection databases, biographical databases and digitization in the cultural heritage domain. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to

Location: Amsterdam Museum
Time: 14.00-17.00

RKDartists URIs in your collection metadata

Louis Le Comte is not Louis Le Comte

Louis Le Comte is not Louis Le Comte

Everyone who ever tried tot find a certain person across different datasets knows names are not always the best thing to identify a person with. Different persons go by the same name, one person can go by different names and even the same name can be written in numerous ways: ‘Rembrandt van Rijn’ = ‘Rijn, Rembrandt van’ = ‘Rhijn, Rembrandt Harmensz. van’ = ‘Rembrant’.

To address this problem the Amsterdam Museum uses the exact spelling the RKD (Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie) uses. As do other collection owners, such as the Rijksmuseum. The Ecartico database, regrettably, does not. So that is not going to help us if we want to trace persons across these two datasets. However, in Ecartico, almost 1500 persons are linked to their RKDartists URI.

By hand, the Amsterdam Museum already linked 686 persons to their RKDartists URI. And just a month ago, the RKD launched an OpenSearch interface, that made it possible to automatically get the RKDartists URIs for another 2108 persons. As yet, the RKD OpenSearch doesn’t seem to be documented, but if you want to search on artist names a query like will probably get you what you want.

There were some false negatives – of 81 persons that were given a RKDartists URI by the museum staff we couldn’t find their exact name in the RKD OpenSearch. By the looks of it, most of these cases were triggered by a different spelling of names.

There were some false positives as well, always occurring when different persons went by the same name. The birth and death dates of 1461 persons in the museum collection were held against the RKDartists dates. Twentyseven of them, or 1.8 percent, didn’t match.

The false positives are illustrated by Louis Le Comte, a 17th-century French Jesuit whose Beschryvinge van het machtige keyserryk China we find in the collection of the museum. In this case, museum staff didn’t give birth or death dates. In RKDartists, we find another Louis Le Comte – a 19th-century Dutch author and amateur artist working for the Royal Navy. You can’t expect museum staff to check author names in RKDartists, and you can’t blame the RKD for not knowing French Jesuit authors. Using URI’s more often might be a solution.