About the Derrida Archive project

In March 2015, Princeton University acquired the personal library of Algerian-born French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). Of the roughly 16,000 published books and other items in the library, a significant number have been heavily annotated, and many bear personal dedications to Derrida from other philosophers and theorists. Princeton is creating linked data descriptions for a set of these items, which involves participating in the development of a Rare Materials Ontology Extension with an emphasis on modeling annotations, evaluating linked data creation tools, and making the resulting RDF data set available to scholars who are interested in studying Derrida’s social and intellectual networks. 

Princeton Project Proposal

Current Activities

Transcribing dedications as a first step toward linked data creation


Joyce Bell (Director, Cataloging and Metadata Services)
Jennifer Baxmeyer (Leader, Electronic Resources Team)
Peter Green (Cataloging and Metadata Technology Specialist)
Lidia Santarelli (Metadata Librarian) (from Feb. 2017)
Luiza Wainer (Metadata Librarian) (from Jan. 2018)
Don Thornbury (Head, Technical Services for Special Collections)
Regine Heberlein (Principal Cataloger and Metadata Analyst)
Timothy Thompson (Metadata Librarian) (until Mar. 2017)

Completed Work
Last updated Jun. 2018

Phase 4/4 (Oct. 2017-Jun. 2018)

Logistics and Planning

  • Began linked data related discussions with newly restructured Library leadership
  • Welcomed a new core group member, Luiza Wainer (Metadata Librarian, Spanish/Portuguese Specialty)
  • Met a second time with interested staff from Library Information Technology to discuss practical linked data related collaboration and pilot projects 


  • Participated in editor testing (CEDAR + LC BIBFRAME editor)
  • Participated in "the Chalet Meeting", to collaboratively envision linked data cataloging workflows, May 21-22
  • Attended LD4 workshop May 1-2
  • Attended partner meeting at the Library of Congress, November 13-14
  • Participated in All-hands, Vitrolib and Tools Coordination calls

Data creation

  • Completed and published preliminary dataset (https://github.com/pulcams/ld4p)
  • Completed in-house, project-specific annotation editor (https://github.com/pulcams/annotation_editor)

  • Thoroughly reviewed and analyzed data creation to date
  • Formed Derrida Dedications Encoding Committee, comprised of 10 professional catalogers

  • Encoded annotations for 450 dedications

  • Began addressing issues within these annotations (e.g. dates without years, illegible text, etc.)

Self-learning / Training

  • Held an introductory SPARQL training, open to all professional catalogers


  • Other

    • Met with visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, Will Hanley (Florida State University), who is working with linked data and an ontology of the historical Middle East, to discuss the potentials and challenges of linked data within the digital humanities

Phase 3/4 (Apr. 2017-Sep. 2017)

Logistics and Planning

  • Met with University Librarian Anne Jarvis to discuss next steps toward linked data initiatives at Princeton University Library

  • Met with Systems Application Development Team to discuss linked data related collaboration


  • Hosted LD4P ontology extension group April 3-4

  • Attended community and partner meetings at Stanford University April 24-28

  • Participated in Rare Materials / ArtFrame calls

  • Hosted Phil Schreur for a day-long in-person meeting
  • Attended Oct SHARE-VDE meeting 
  • Began working with vitrolib developer at Cornell

    • Provided example record / RDF description

    • Participated in usability testing

Data creation

  • Completed double-blind transcription of sample dedications

  • Completed reconciliation of both transcriber’s dedications

  • Completed first steps toward entification / data cleanup

  • Converted titles with existing MARC records to BF2
  • Created MARC for titles without existing records
  • Prepared an in-house annotation editor for use in Phase 4

Self-learning / Training

  • Completed Semantic Web for Working Ontologist in our linked data discussion / reading group

  • Read BIBFLOW Roadmap in our linked data discussion / reading group


  • Presentations

    • Linked Data at Princeton! presented to Princeton University Library Dept. Heads

    • Linked Data and the Semantic Web: Roadshow Presentation, Princeton University Library Collection Development
    • The Future of Library Cataloging: a View from Technical Services, four repeat presentations open to all library staff
  • Articles

  • Other

    • Met with faculty stakeholder, Claude Willan, to discuss use cases and areas of overlap with digital humanities projects

Phase 2/4 (Oct. 2016-Mar. 2017)


  • Attended second LD4P All-Hands meeting in Washington D.C.

  • Met with the Princeton Digital Humanities Center’s Derrida project management team (regarding their separate but potentially related project)

  • Participated in brainstorming about a second LD4P grant

Data creation

  • Digitization

    • Arranged for digitization of the sample set of 500 objects

  • Transcription

    • Created MS Access data entry form

    • Hired student workers for double-blind data entry

    • Began transcription of dedications

    • Completed comparison and reconciliation of 235 transcriptions


Self-learning / Training


  • Articles

    • Timothy A. Thompson, et al. (2016). From Notes to Annotations: Deconstructing Dedications in the Library of Jacques Derrida at Princeton University, Journal of Library Metadata, 16(3-4), 146-165. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19386389.2016.1258908

Phase 1/4 (Apr.-Sept. 2016)

Logistics and Planning

  • Created private GitHub wiki for Princeton internal documentation

  • Scheduled bi-weekly LD4P workshops for the core group

  • Outlined plans for Oct.-Dec. 2016, the first half of Phase 2


  • Expanded core group to include local Rare Books staff

  • Consulted with library IT staff

  • Consulted with faculty stakeholder in French and Italian Dept.

    • Explored the possibility of coordination with related CDH Derrida project

  • Met with the LD4P Project Manager during on-site visit

Data creation

  • Created proposal for imaging relevant pages from a sample of ~500 annotated books

  • Selected 525 objects from Derrida's library for digitization

  • Initiated process of hiring student help for the transcription of annotations in Phase 2


  • Participated in collaborative LD4P Rare Materials ontology calls

    • Contributed to the creation, categorization, and prioritization of use cases

  • Participated in LD4All Ontology Alignment Calls

  • Worked on modelling of annotations, seeking input from members of the Web Annotation Working Group



  • Discussed idea of training a select group of staff in linked data concepts

Pre-project activities (prior to Apr. 2016)

  • Formed core group within Library Technical Services Dept. and scheduled weekly meetings
  • Did initial modelling for annotations, investigate applicability of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Annotation Data Model  
  • Manually created 45 sample annotations in turtle format
    • Prototyped an annotation creation tool
  • Consulted with Princeton University Center for Digital Humanities (CDH)
  • Presentation:
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