Cinema Data - a Linked Open Data initiative (v2: 2014.03.31)

theaters mural

Project Intent, Topic, and Scope:

cinemadata’s topic is access to cinemas by urban and rural populations in the early 20th century. The original data was gathered during the early 1990's from trade journals, directories, images, and first-person testimony. This project will test linked open data tools for exposing cinemadata for public use.

note: cinemadata.org is newly focus solely on publishing RDF. The HTML pages which were produced in 2011 from the 1990s ProCite files are once again available and will continue to be available.

Portions of the project as first envisioned were completed (e.g. a sample of oral history workbooks were scanned, transcribed, and TEI documents were published; numerous theater building postcards from Northeast Historic Film's Q. David Bowers Postcard Collection were also scanned and published; "serendipitous finds", like references to specific theaters in The Moving Picture World were documented). That iteration of this project has been archived as Cinema Data - a Linked Open Data initiative — version 1.

The original ProCite database was systematically designed and consistently accomplished, which means the Web documents, as human-readable HTML pages, are good sources for researchers. While the data is not perfect, it is a dependable starting-point for gathering data about theater buildings of the early 1900s into the 1990s, many of which have long-since closed or become very different establishments. Analysis, data cleaning, and transformation of the text files to HTML is partially recorded on the version 1 homepage.

Much of the data gathered was entered into separate ProCite database fields, such as "Date Opened" and "Date Closed". See the Empire in Lewiston, Maine as one example: "Date Opened: 23-Nov-03"; "Date Closed: at least 1951 per FDY 1951". But much of the research was entered into a "notes" field. Making that information available as discrete items, as RDF, has remained elusive. To be available as RDF for SPARQL queries, each data element has to be published as <Subject; Predicate; Object> "triples" (more on this below).

Data for a small set of Maine and New Hampshire theaters, derived from national theatrical directories, trade periodicals, local newspapers, business records, and state directories in the original ProCite database, will be re-researched with online resources and published as RDF. This sub-set of cinema data will also become a proof-of-concept working instance for small archive cultural heritage RDF data research with SPARQL queries. The hope is that this exercise will inform both a better understanding of the notes fields as well as the design of a new data structure to free the discrete bits of information in those fields with new conversion scripts.

The sample list of theaters begins with the following 14 Maine theaters; final count is anticipated to be 20 Maine and 20 New Hampshire theaters. These are working copies that will be edited as research is completed. The originals will continue to be published in the http://cinemadata.org/theaters-buildings/Maine/ directory:

The original bibliography included with four text files is the starting point for reviewing the data now available as digital copy at Internet Archive and Media History Digital Library as well as several other resources that have been gathered thanks to the local University InterLibrary Loan Dept.


Please feel free to send questions, comments, corrections, or additons:
teeter [at] cinemadata.org