Data-Driven storytelling through FAIR data: The challenges in discoverability, cross-domain linking and integrating context

Sharif Islam, Andreas Weber, Sally Chambers, Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, Kerstin Arnold, Henning Schulz

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


A major goal of curating natural history collections or cultural artefacts in museums, herbaria, libraries and archives is to create diverse and rich narratives around them. Their investigation by computational methods enables scholars to discover new connections and patterns, and helps to answer a whole range of research questions that were previously impossible to study. Each curated object is not only an informational resource for the researcher, it can also provide contexts, make visible the relationships between artefacts, people, publications, organisations, provenance, and events. However, in order to pursue research in this direction, good quality digital representations of the curated physical objects, as well as relevant datasets, that are not only accessible by humans but also by machines, are necessary.

Related and derived datasets from these objects have the potential to foster cross-disciplinary collaborations (such as between biology, history, art or anthropology) thus providing a wider lens for contextualising, interpreting and creating knowledge in relation to cultural and natural heritage collections. By taking such curated objects and their digital representation as point of departure, this cross-disciplinary panel explores current trends and challenges via the theme of data-driven storytelling and FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) data.

Despite large-scale digitisation and data mobilisation efforts, gaps remain within and between different collections. Objects in natural history museums are, for instance, not well connected with libraries, archives, art museums and other institutions which hold contextual information. A range of factors has contributed to this, including different domain specific practices, data standards, and funding schemes. The idea of Linked Open Data (LOD) and FAIR data addresses some of these issues, however, there are still social, technical and systematic challenges that hamper data-driven storytelling about objects in digitised collections. At the same time, we are noticing an increasing interest and understanding of FAIR and interdisciplinary collaboration both from funding agencies and user communities in the fields of digital cultural and natural heritage.

This 60 minute panel firstly presents the following three position papers of 10 minutes each, that explore different perspectives and actors involved in data-driven storytelling through the curated objects:

1.The challenge of data discoverability and accessibility (Andreas Weber, University of Twente and Sharif Islam, DiSSCo): From the perspective of a researcher, how does one go about finding and using the objects that are needed to create the story? How does one find the contextual information and related entities (other objects of a similar type held in other institutions, other objects of different types collected/found/preserved by the same person, etc.)? What does allowing such discoverability mean for the collection holding institutions and the data providers?

2.The challenge of linking and integrating contextual data (Kerstin Arnold, Archives Portal Europe and Henning Scholz, Europeana): What are the social, technical, and systematic challenges for establishing links between different collections (either in the same or different discipline)? How do different (meta)data standards, inconsistent use of identifiers, lack of aligned vocabularies and semantic mapping create obstacles for data linking and enrichment? How could these obstacles be overcome? And who needs to be involved in that process?

3.Opportunities and challenges for data-driven storytelling (Sally Chambers, DARIAH-EU and Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, DARIAH-EU): How can research infrastructures drive forward solutions with the objective of providing useful and re-usable (and FAIR) services to the end users? How can data-driven storytelling help us to bridge the infrastructural gaps between cultural and natural heritage collections and research? How can data-driven storytelling assist in highlighting research-driven digitisation priorities? What are the potential outcomes from these kinds of initiatives (Jupyter notebooks, code, demos etc.)?

Taken together, we intend that these position papers will stimulate an open and interdisciplinary dialogue between cultural and natural heritage professionals, historians and natural scientists, research infrastructure experts and data scientists, as well as stimulating hands-on experimentation with data-driven storytelling. The session will result in a blogpost, showcased on the DARIAH Open blog, presenting the perspectives of the three position papers alongside a summary of the key topics raised during the interdisciplinary debate. It is also intended that the discussions can continue, for example, within the Europeana Aggregators’ Forum following the DARIAH Annual Event.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2022
EventDARIAH Annual Event 2022: Storytelling - Athens / Hybrid, Athens, Greece
Duration: 31 May 20223 Jun 2022


ConferenceDARIAH Annual Event 2022
Internet address


  • cultural heritage
  • biodiversity heritage
  • storytelling
  • digital collections
  • cultural history
  • digital humanities


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