Matthew Lincoln, PhD Cultural Heritage Data & Info Architecture

New Role: Collections Information Architect

Starting today, I’m taking on a new role at CMU Libraries as Collections Information Architect!

In the short term, this means joining the already-rolling team to migrate our digitized collections out of an old proprietary platform into Islandora 8, helping to streamline and automate metadata workflows where we can, and making sure we build a strong foundational data model that can support not only the images and information we have today, but the media and metadata we’ll be generating in the years to come.

Beyond the Islandora initiative, I’ll be expanding my remit to work across the library to help my home unit, “Innovation, Preservation, and Access,” the Leadership Team, and our Technology Team to begin developing a comprehensive information architecture strategy. The long-term mission of this role is to design the infrastructure of software, data standards, and workflows to seamlessly interlink our Special Collections, University Archives, and other distinctive collections with each other, and with institutions around the world.

I’ll be writing more here in the coming months about the guiding values for this position and some of the concrete work our information foundations need to support the building of all kinds of lovely teaching/research/exhibition/publication houses. But one of those key guiding principles is going to be:

Software comes and goes, but data are forever.

The technical audit I performed last fall focused on the describing the current implementation layer of our collections ecosystem: what particular software platforms are holding the bytes, pixels, and metadata fields about which parts of our digital and physical collections. This role will still be involved in these implementation decisions along with my software engineer colleagues, but I will responsible for the larger conceptual integrity of our CMU’s truly eclectic collections data: stewarding not just titles and and dates and pixels and text, but the relationships from a distinguished faculty member’s manuscript notes to archival folder, box, and series; from rare printing of a seventeenth-century mathematical treatise to its provenance papers; from version 1.0 of a robot to version 7.0; from video of the opening night of a drama department production to its performance years later on a national stage.

We might be migrating to Islandora 8 in 2021, but in a few years it may be Islandora 9, and before that we may be moving or establishing other platforms for managing archival info, publications, software preservation, and more. The more structure we can begin to put into our data now - i.e. “things vs. strings” - the better equipped we’ll be to funnel data out of one platform into another down the road. Keeping an eye on those futures while still pressing forward with individual infrastructure projects will be the core challenge in this role, and one I’m excited to take on.

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Cite this post:

Lincoln, Matthew D. "New Role: Collections Information Architect." Matthew Lincoln, PhD (blog), 01 Feb 2021,

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