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Extending BHL’s Data Model & Wikibase Front-end Showcase

Published onAug 20, 2023
Extending BHL’s Data Model & Wikibase Front-end Showcase

A Wikibase deployment is another pathway for BHL’s semantic enrichment. Beyond the current BHL work in Wikidata, Wikibase presents a flexible platform for entity description, data modeling, and reconciliation. Other entities (i.e. “things” that we want to surface and describe in BHL) that are currently under-described in BHL could be modeled by librarians and information architects, enhanced by trained staff and volunteers, and subsequently federated with the rest of the Wikidata ecosystem (with the caveat that federation features develop to accommodate and map to external ontologies).

There are long-standing BHL user requests to collect more robust metadata for and provide search access points to:

  • Species descriptions (sometimes referred to as taxonomic treatments)

  • Visual media (illustrations, photos, art, maps)

  • Geographic locations

  • Visual artists (illustrators, lithographers, engravers, painters)

  • Specimen field collectors

  • Publishers

The description of these undescribed entities could happen in Wikibase, without requiring any changes to BHL’s current information architecture. An external Wikibase provides a flexible space to experiment and construct data models on the fly without the need for major code changes to the BHL platform itself.

In turn, a Wikibase repository could also provide BHL developers with improved data through staff curation efforts that could be harvested back into the BHL production environment, if desired. BHL staff would be empowered to take a more active role in co-creating a more robust, representative data model for BHL with the eventual aim of releasing the curation of that data to a larger set of enthusiastic volunteers who want nothing more than to see all of BHL’s content made useful, usable, and used.

Wikibase Front-End Showcase

Additionally, many projects are using Wikibase as a back-end with slick front-end user interfaces, driven by SPARQL’s powerful search features. developed a custom ontology to model previously underrepresented data. See: “Stories of the Enslaved told using Wikibase.”

Linked Jazz

Pratt’s Linked Jazz project crowdsources relationships between musicians, exposing their community as a knowledge graph user analysis of jazz history materials. (Pratt University, Semantic Lab, n.d.)


Florence Bascom’s co-author graph on Scholia.  Scholia uses the Wikidata Query Service to build dynamic pages consisting of lists and visualizations, for researchers, organizations, journals, publishers, scholarly works, and research topics including taxons.

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