LEAF (Linking and Exploring Authority Files)
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PROJECT SYNOPSIS

Background

It is a widely accepted fact that the importance and requirement of high quality authority file information is growing with the increasing communication between heterogeneous data and standardised information is highly desired. Libraries, archives, museums and documentation centres therefore put a special emphasis on authority file activities.

While several national name authority files exist in the libraries sector and attempts are currently made to link those national data files with each other, no national or international name authority file is presently used in libraries or in archives, museums and documentation centres and there is no standardised European name record format available.

The use of existing authority files is generally restricted to bigger organisations and to those institutions that have been or are participating in name authority file projects. Consequently the use of authority files is not very widespread, and smaller institutions use local files which cover their very special needs where the content is generally not known to other institutions. Public users at present hardly benefit from the existence of authority file information because they are generally not even aware of their existence.

A significant degree of research and development has been undertaken in the area of distributed virtual catalogue systems but none of these activities has attempted to consolidate the content of the data, with a view to this being used in harmony with the search and retrieval gateways. LEAF will provide a totally novel approach for solving this problem.

Objectives

LEAF develops a model architecture for a system that uploads distributed authorities (persons and corporate bodies) to a central system and automatically links those authorities that belong to the same entity. Local authority data will be uploaded from the local servers of the participating organisations to the central LEAF system where it is stored in the EAC (Encoded Archival Context) format. Regular updates of the uploaded data will ensure that data in the central LEAF system is as up-to-date as possible.

Retrieved records will automatically be stored in a "Central Name Authority File" which will thus contain name information of high quality and high user relevance, as these will only be records that were actually searched for. Thus, this "Central Name Authority File" will be highly relevant to the cultural heritage of Europe.

LEAF will also offer annotation and download facilities: Registered users will be able to annotate records and thus enhance the name information. Commercial agents like manuscript dealers may add customised offers. Institutions without electronic data about persons may indicate that they have relevant information about a specific person. Having the LEAF record as a starting point, the user will also have the possibility to view and download this record in a variety of formats, to view the local records the LEAF record was built of, and to search for documents related to the person or corporation.

The project results will be implemented by extending the international online Search and Retrieval service network of OPACs resulting from the MALVINE project that provides information about modern manuscripts and letters.

Thus, the MALVINE system will be extended into a global multilingual information service about persons and corporate bodies. The model architecture is intended to be applicable to other kinds of cultural/scientific objects and data, ensuring through the use of authority file information that the representation of the objects in question is one of high quality. The LEAF demonstrator will thus provide a valuable example of how dynamic user interaction with the cultural/scientific content can considerably enhance the user experience.

Innovation

It is planned to provide a model for a common authority file which is defined and created by real user queries. This novel approach takes into account for the first time that name authority information is the most important starting point for every activity concerning the documentation of European cultural heritage. The model also assumes that different preconditions that are applicable to smaller and bigger institutions but also the different regional or national practices are the most important obstacle against effective co-operation in any sector of work with the common European cultural heritage. The novel approach of LEAF therefore has to be shown in a very concrete application.

  • LEAF will be demonstrated in a search and retrieval context of data about modern manuscripts. This scenario will largely depend on the use of biographical information and/or information about corporate bodies.
  • Local authority data will be uploaded from the local servers to the central system where it is stored in the EAC format.
  • Those authorities that refer to the same entity will be linked.
  • The retrieved information will be stored in a "Central Name Authority File" which will thus be enhanced by every new query. This file will only contain records actually searched for by users.
  • Registered users will be able to communicate with the data providers and with other users by posting annotations. This will improve the data quality. Searching annotations will also be possible.
  • Registered users will be able to download records in various formats.

Measure of success

The measure of success of LEAF will be on the following criteria:

Technical: to satisfy the technical system requirements of the demonstrator that will prove the technical design and approach taken.

Requirements: to use a demonstration period of the project to measure the success of the user tests against initial pre-selected test criteria, and subsequent analysis;

Feedback: to analyse feedback from users during the trial phase;

Dissemination Feedback: to gauge the degree of interest in the project from other projects, communities, standards bodies etc.

The project will be conducted in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Requirements and analysis;
  • Phase 2: Software development and testing;
  • Phase 3: Evaluation and validation.

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