About the Rare Materials Ontology Extension

In conjunction with the ACRL Rare Books and Manuscript Section's Bibliographic Standards Committee (RBMS-BSC), Cornell University Library led an effort to build an ontology extension for the description of rare materials. This collaborative effort was intended to provide RBMS-BSC with a model for handling the complexity of rare materials, particularly item-level description not addressed in BIBFRAME 2.0. For questions or comments, please contact Jason Kovari, Director of Cataloging & Metadata Services, Cornell University Library: jak473 [ at ] cornell dot edu

Cornell Project Proposal

View RareMat's work on GitHub

NOTE: As described in the next section, this effort developed into the Art & Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension.

NOTE: As of June 2018, RBMS' Bibliographic Standards Committee committed to development and maintenance of ARM, in partnership with community partners.

The Art & Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension

The Art & Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension (ARM), and the ontologies housed in the ARM GitHub repository have been developed as extensions of the BIBFRAME ontology for generalized bibliographic description to provide specialized modeling in the art and rare materials domains. These were originally conceived of as two separate projects: Columbia University led ArtFrame, an ontology extension for the description of two-and three-dimensional artworks, in collaboration with the Art Libraries Society of North America's Cataloging Advisory Committee (ARLIS CAC), the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, The Clark Library, and the Morgan Library & Museum. Meanwhile, Cornell University led the Rare Materials Ontology Extension (RareMat) in collaboration with the ACRL Rare Books and Manuscript Section's Bibliographic Standards Committee (RBMS-BSC); RareMat was intended to provide modeling for the complexity of rare materials, particularly item-level description not addressed in BIBFRAME.

As work proceeded, it became apparent that many of the modeling needs of the two groups overlapped: physical description, physical condition and conservation, custodial history, measurements, awards and exhibitions, and so on. It was thus decided to merge the projects and jointly develop a single set of models.

Meanwhile, select models were considered separable from the core models, amenable to independent implementation by users within and outside the bibliographic domain. These models have been pulled out of the core ontology into three modularized ontologies: awards, custodial history, and measurements.

In addition to the ontologies, the group has generated several other outputs:

  • A set of controlled vocabularies for arrangement of physical objects (e.g., rolled and unrolled), origin (e.g., of titles), status (e.g., of identifiers), typefaces, and handwriting types.
  • Detailed documentation of each model. These include use cases; model overviews, with motivation and rationale in reference to the use cases and legacy data; diagrams; RDF samples; term specifications; recommendations for future modifications to BIBFRAME, where applicable; and lists of related topics out-of-scope of the current project but of interest for future research.
  • Application profiles, formalized in SHACL and accompanied by external ontologies and vocabularies, to support form and display interfaces in VitroLib, an RDF cataloging tool under development in the associated Linked Data for Libraries Labs project. Two application profiles are under development: art and rare monographs. Also included are fragments of source ontologies and vocabularies used in the application profiles and modeling recommendations.
  • Experimental: SHACL validation profiles stored with the associated ontologies, which can be used as a basis for application profiles but whose primary purpose is to define expected implementation of the ontologies independent of any application. Some proof-of-concept application profiles are built on the validation SHACL in this way; when the profiles are complete we will evaluate the feasibility and usefulness of refactoring all the application profiles according to this model. Currently available are core validation and custodial_history SHACL shapes.
Completed Work

Use Case Development


OWL file development

  • Core Ontology
  • Award Ontology
  • Custodial History Ontology
  • Measurement Ontology
  • Activity Ontology
    • The issue of whether to adopt the BIBFRAME Contribution model or the bibliotek-o Activity model has not yet been resolved. As a temporary accommodation, the Activity model is used, but the terms are stored in a separate ontology file with a distinct namespace for easy separation. The expectation is that either (1) the Activity model will be adopted, and the terms merged into the ARM Core Ontology, or (2) the BIBFRAME Contribution model will be adopted, the Activity ontology deprecated, and other associated revisions to the ARM ontologies and vocabularies be implemented.
    • Ontology specification
    • Human-readable documentation

Application Profiles (SHACL)

In-Person Meetings


Amber Billey (Bard College)
Amy Brown (Boston College)
Todd Fell (Yale University)
Steven Folsom (Cornell University)
Peter Green (Princeton University)
Linda Isaac (University of Miami)
Jason Kovari (Team Lead. Cornell University)
Margaret Nichols (Cornell University)
Michelle Paquette (Stanford University)
Audrey Pearson (Yale University)
Timothy Thompson (Yale University)
Rebecca Younes (Cornell University)

ArtFrame Collaborators

Presentations and Workshops
  • (accepted) 2018.09.10 - Kovari, Wacker, Khan and Folsom. "Modeling and application profiles in the Art and Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension". DCMI, Porto, Portugal
  • 2018.06.23 - Kovari and Lapka. "Art & Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension : from Modeling to Implementation". ALCTS Metadata Interest Group: Implementing Linked Open Data in the Real World, ALA Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA
  • 2018.06.19 - Kovari, Isaac and Pearson. "Art & Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension : from Modeling to Implementation". RBMS Conference, New Orleans, LA
  • 2018.06.08 - Kovari, Isaac and Pearson. "Art & Rare Materials BIBFRAME Ontology Extension : from Modeling to Implementation". Yale University, New Haven, CT
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