Journey without maps: Publishing linked open data for large archival collections

Mr Owen Oneill1, Mr Daniel Wilksch1

1Public Record Office Victoria, Melbourne, Australia,



In June 2017, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) implemented a new repository for publishing linked open data about the open access records in our collection. This new infrastructure has enabled us to experiment with semantic web based approaches such as the Linked Data Platform (LDP) platform for describing the contextual information and resources related to records in the collection in way that maintains its semantic structure while being machine readable.


Public Record Office Victoria is in the process of implementing a range of new digital infrastructure components for facilitating use of the collection. A key part of this infrastructure is a repository using Fedora Commons for storing open access content and other contextual information about the collection. This data falls into four broad categories: extended description, transcription, user generated content and renditions (copies) of records.

The content stored in our Fedora Commons repository is structured using RDF using a simple data model based on the Portland Common Data Model. This data model enables us to describe the content and relationships between content entities, and to publish the data in a form that enables it to be more easily utilised, interrogated and repurposed.

While meeting our initial requirements, we expect to confirm and refine the data model over time, as the amount of data ingested into the repository grows. We are also exploring the appropriate use of widely implemented ontologies. As an archive, there is a potential tension between using ontologies to facilitate interoperability, while avoiding overlaying semantic meaning on the content we have custodianship over. This potential tension would benefit from further consideration and discussion in the sector as the use of semantic web approaches becomes more common.



Owen ONeill is the Program Manager for Public Record Office Victoria’s Digital Archive Program. The aim of the program is to replace the systems Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) uses for maintaining and facilitating access to the PROV collection.

Owen has previously been involved in a number of digital preservation and data management projects in Higher Education and Research.

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