Imagine being able to pull data from hundreds, even thousands, of different sources to create charts and graphs; compare facts, figures, or relationships; or discover patterns that no one ever knew existed. If you had the ability to do it, what would you set out to find?
This is the new web of Linked Data that’s envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, and amazingly, it’s starting to become reality. We have accomplished incredible things with a web of documents, but we now have the opportunity to dig deeper to explore the relationships between people, places, and things utilizing graphs rather than tables. It’s like going from The Muppets to Avatar (or if you hated Avatar, pick your own exaggerated analogy for a paradigm shift in technology).
The humanities stand to benefit enormously by this new opportunity for discovery and analysis. Not only does it offer the real possibility for bridging isolated archives and data collections, but it opens the door for community contributed links that can significantly amplify long-stagnant archives and records.
Within the Linked Data movement, there are roles to be played by technologists, developers, researchers, archivists, dreamers and everyone in between. I’d like to present the Civil War Data 150 Project as just one example of what Linked Data may help us achieve, and invite everyone to come up with creative projects you might pursue if you had the ability to reach across collections, time, and space to explore new networks and relationships of information.