Thursday, January 31, 2019

RISM has been delivering its authority records for personal names to VIAF since the middle of 2018. VIAF is the Virtual International Authority File, a joint project with many participating national libraries and library associations that is run by the library cooperative OCLC.

Participating institutions include the national libraries of France, Germany, Latvia, Russia, and the United States, as well as Wikidata, the Getty Research Institute, and ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier). The goal of the project is to form a unified virtual authority file by forming clusters made from the authority records of contributing institutions.

As an example, let’s look at the VIAF entry for Clara Schumann (top picture). At the top, we see an overview of the ways her name is spelled according to the libraries and projects that refer to this person. Under this, the authority records that have been delivered to VIAF are linked. Sometimes (if a line is underneath the flag or logo) you can view the authority records directly in the library’s catalog. To the right, you see a visualization of the cluster. Further down you can see name variants, people and places related to the person, works linked to the person, and places of publication.

There are many advantages for participating libraries and projects. Using the VIAF identifier, a person can be unambiguously identified, no matter how the person’s name is spelled in other languages. This is especially clear when looking at the record for Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (bottom picture). This also makes exchanging data a lot easier. In the long term, this opens the door to many exciting possibilities with other projects.

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