GLAMi nomination: American Art Collaborative

nominated by: Duane Degler, Design for Context, USA
institution: Smithsonian American Art Museum
category: Groundbreaking

The American Art Collaborative (AAC) is a consortium of 14 U.S. art museums/archives (listed below), supported by a strong team of advisors and consultants. The Collaborative believes that Linked Open Data (LOD) offers rich potential to increase the understanding of art by expanding access to cultural holdings, by deepening research connections for scholars and curators, and by creating public interfaces for students, teachers, and museum visitors.

AAC has significantly enabled open culture data sharing. The 13 art museums and the Archives of American Art prepared and published their collections data as Linked Open Data. The snapshot release of that data is on GitHub ( The partners come from a range of institutions, allowing the AAC to consider how LOD is adopted by institutions that vary in size, resource levels, and technical sophistication. Partners worked closely to define requirements and articulate ideas for the use of federated, open data and images. Lessons and insights are extensively documented in the AAC’s Overview and Recommendations for Good Practices (

The AAC recognized that data needs a user experience to succeed. Design for Context produced a first generation open source Browse application (, presenting all 14 partners’ data for museum users. The design ideas extend well beyond this prototype application, yet the potential is clear. The application continues to be extended.

AAC produced a LOD “target model,” balancing rich use of the CIDOC-CRM ontology, practical developer-friendly JSON-LD for applications, and the ability to accommodate different types of collections information. This model is being extended by an active international community as the Linked.Art model (http://Linked.Art), led by the J. Paul Getty Trust Strategy Team and members of the community. The AAC model was implemented in the Karma mapping tool by the Information Sciences Institute at USC, now used by some AAC partners to convert their data. The Linked.Art model is being implemented in a number of museum open data projects.

The Getty Vocabularies Team played an important role supporting AAC. Working together helped AAC partners link their constituents (artists, sitters, correspondents) to ULAN. AAC and the Getty have explored how to submit new names to the Vocabularies, extending the usefulness for other institutions.

From the beginning, the AAC initiated educational webinars providing partners and the museum community with insights into leading LOD projects. These briefings, along with other online resources, remain available on the AAC website (

The Collaboration itself, with the sustained, ongoing commitment of the partner institutions, may be the most valuable outcome of this project. This community is committed to involving other institutions to extend open culture, with linked data as a foundation.

AAC’s partners have expressed an interest in extending the types of data that can be produced as LOD, including education materials, exhibition data, curatorial notes, conservation data, archival data, and more. Much of this is already being modeled in the Linked.Art community. IIIF (the International Image Interoperability Framework) had begun to be used, and partners plan to implement IIIF more actively in their own sites, so that will extend its use within AAC. Support for increasing the sustainability of data export, conversion to LOD, and hosting is planned. Further application development under the AAC umbrella is anticipated, and the AAC is looking for input from other community members and potential partners for priorities and additional collaborators.

The AAC has created significant products, demonstrations, and information resources for the wider cultural heritage community. Many of its outputs are only first steps that will continue to be developed, both under the AAC umbrella and via other projects. The AAC is a living collaboration. Early prototypes and software tools will get better and more feature-rich with the community’s input and involvement.


Grant support:

  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services


  • Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Katherine Moloney
  • Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Karen Weiss, Michelle Herman, Toby Reiter
  • Autry Museum of the American West, Rebecca Menendez
  • Colby College Museum of Art, Charles Butcosk
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Shane Richey
  • Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), Shyam Oberoi, Brian MacElhose
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) / Newfields Lab, Stuart Alter, Heather Floyd, Samantha Norling
  • Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Diana Folsom
  • National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Sue Garton
  • National Museum of Wildlife Art, Emily Winters
  • Princeton University Art Museum, Cathryn Goodwin
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Rachel Allen, Sara Snyder, Richard Brassell
  • The Walters Art Museum, Will Hays
  • Yale Center for British Art, Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass

Project Director:

  • Eleanor E. Fink


  • Robert Sanderson, Senior Semantic Architect, J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Thorny Staples, Director, (retired) of the Office of Research Information Services at the Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
  • Craig Knoblock, Director of Data Integration, Information Sciences Institute (ISI), USC
  • Martin Doerr, Research Director at the Information Systems Laboratory and head of the Centre for Cultural Informatics of the Institute of Computer Science, FORTH
  • Vladimir Alexiev, Lead, Data and Ontology Management Group, Ontotext Corp


  • Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass, Collections Data Manager, Collections Information & Access Department, Yale Center for British Art
  • Stephen Stead, Paveprime Ltd.
  • Pedro Szekely, Project Leader, Research Associate Professor, Information Sciences Institute, USC
  • Design for Context
    • Duane Degler, Principal and Project Lead
    • Kate Blanch, Data Architect
    • David Newbury, Architect/Lead Developer
    • Neal Johnson, Analyst and Project Manager
    • Lesley Humphreys, User Researcher