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What is Vitro?

Vitro is a general-purpose web-based ontology and instance editor with customizable public browsing. Vitro was originally developed at Cornell University, and is used as the core of the popular research and scholarship portal, VIVO. Vitro is an integrated ontology editor and semantic web application implemented as a Java web application that runs in a Tomcat servlet container. With Vitro, you can: create or load ontologies in the Web Ontology Language (OWL) format; edit instances and relationships; build a public web site to display your data; and search your data with Apache Solr.

How will Vitro be used in LD4L Labs?

The Cornell LD4L Labs project team will provide library technical services and digital collections catalogers with Vitro-based data editing, display, and dissemination environments that will support the creation and incorporation of subject and collection-specific ontologies to describe the unique aspects of the collection in a structured, extensible, and shareable manner. The tools will also support easy linking to existing external linked data vocabularies and published globally-resolvable entities (e.g., Getty, FAST, WorldCat Entities, LinkedBrainz, and Digital Science GRID).

The Vitro-based editing tool will be used by LD4P Partners in their metadata production pilots. These pilots will specifically include the Afrika Bambaataa Collection at Cornell and the Columbia Art Properties Collection, but may include other LD4P efforts as well. The Vitro metadata production approaches will be informed by the use cases developed by other LD4P Partner projects.

Like VIVO, this editing tool will be a full-scale application built on top of the Vitro core, but customized for original cataloging in RDF.

Work Plan

Work on the Vitro editor will involve the following stages and components:

Stage 1: Exploration and documentation

  1. Installation of a shared sandbox instance for experimentation by LD4P partners. This instance is based on and includes customizations for the LD4L-O ontology and recommendations for re-use of external vocabularies developed in the LD4L 2014-2016 project. Sample instance data using these vocabularies, produced by the MARC-to-RDF converter produced during the 2014-2016 project, has been loaded into the instance.
  2. A series of introductory webinars including installation and configuration, ontology browsing; instance data browsing, editing, and querying; display customization; and user management.
  3. Full documentation of the Vitro application, including technical documentation and customization options for developers, and site and data management documentation for site adminstrators and editors.

Stage 2: Vitro editor application development

  1. Hosting of institution-specific instances for some LD4P partners. These will include Cornell, Columbia, and possibly others to be identified.
  2. Provision of an installation package for LD4P partners who will host their own instances.
  3. Iterative development of the application based on close collaboration with and feedback from LD4P partners as they use the tool. These customizations will include development of custom data entry forms and data display based on the underlying ontologies developed and recommended by the LD4L Labs/LD4P ontology working group.
  4. Improvements to the Vitro core technology identified during the course of editor customizations. Design and implementation of this improvements will be based on discussions with and recommendations from the VIVO community, with the expectation that these will be merged back into the Vitro code repository for the benefit of the VIVO community and other Vitro users. An immediate task is to fully separate the VIVO and Vitro code bases as a prerequisite for clean development of another Vitro-based application.


Current Status

  • Installation of a shared exploratory sandbox with preliminary customizations is complete. LD4P partners have been given administrative and editorial access to the instance, and their initial explorations will result in the identification of initial requirements and feature rquests for ongoing development.
  • The webinar series is planned for release in mid-to-late September 2016.
  • The full set of written Vitro documentation will be an ongoing project over the next several months, and will be available in stages as work is completed.
  • Initial work on the clean separation of Vitro and VIVO is underway.
  • The ontology working group is in the process of developing an ontology recommendation which will underly the editor customizations. This recommendation is expected to be complete by mid-to-late September 2016.


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