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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 developed and used in LD4L Labs and LD4P?

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 ("VitroLib") 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, VitroLib will be a full-scale application built on top of the Vitro core, but customized for original cataloging in RDF.

Work plan

Work on VitroLib will involve the following stages and components:

Stage 1: Exploration and documentation

The goal of this stage is to provide an early VitroLib prototype, with accompanying documentation and instructional materials, as a basis for preliminary exploration by LD4P partners, and to serve as a starting point for initial requirements analysis and feature specification for the more fully-featured version of Stage 2, described below. The work products of this stage are:

  1. A prototype VitroLib application built on Vitro 1.8.1, including some sample customizations for the ontology (LD4L-O) and recommended external vocabularies developed in the LD4L 2014-2016 project
  2. A Cornell-hosted, shared sandbox instance of this version of VitroLib for exploration by LD4P partners. 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. 
  3. A series of introductory webinars based on this verion of VitroLib, including installation and configuration, ontology browsing; instance data browsing, editing, and querying; display customization; and user management.
  4. Full documentation of the stand-alone Vitro application, which has not heretofore existed. This will be based on the VIVO 1.9 documentation, include technical documentation and customization options for developers, and site and data management documentation for site administrators and editors. As the project progresses (see Stage 2 below), VitroLib-specific documentation will be provided as needed.

Stage 2: VitroLib application development

The goal of this stage is to progressively build a more fully featured application based on iterative requirements and feature specification developed in collaboration with the LD4P partners who are using VitroLib as their metadata editor. This version will be built on Vitro 1.9, and will provide display and editing customizations for the core ontology recommendations of the LD4L Labs/LD4P ontology working group. The application will be further customizable for the LD4P ontology extensions. The work products of this stage are:

  1. Cornell hosting of institution-specific VitroLib 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 sample 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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