LITMUS Project Announcement (7/27/2017)

EUflag_yellow_highITMA is delighted to announce that it has been awarded funding of over € 187k to host one of the European Commission’s inaugural Marie Curie Society & Enterprise Fellowships. Dr. Lynnsey Weissenberger, a postdoctoral researcher in Library & Information Studies from Florida State University – and a practising Irish traditional musician – joined ITMA in July 2017 to lead the two-year LITMUS project.

LITMUS (Linked Irish Traditional Music) seeks to improve searching and access to web-based Irish traditional music, song and dance resources through the development of a Linked Data framework. The project will utilise ITMA’s extensive Irish traditional music collections as well as introducing Dr. Weissenberger to an international network of Irish traditional musicians and researchers. She will also be seconded for six months to the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway. While tailored to Irish traditional music, it is hoped that this EC Horizon 2020 project will provide a working model for other European and non-European traditional musics. Follow the project updates at

The highly competitive Society and Enterprise Individual Fellowship scheme awarded funding totalling € 8 million to almost fifty projects across Europe, including six in Ireland.

#Horizon2020 #MSCA #semanticweb #linkeddata #LODLAM #OpenGLAM

Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA)

ITMA is a national reference archive and resource centre for the traditional song, music and dance of Ireland. At its premises in Dublin and online it offers access, free of charge, to the largest multimedia collection in existence dedicated to contemporary and historical Irish traditional music. Visitors are welcome to listen, view and browse thousands of sound recordings, videos, books, images and manuscripts which have been collected and preserved by ITMA since 1987. It is funded primarily by the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are a European Commission Funding Programme which supports researchers at all stages of their careers, across all research disciplines and in all employment sectors. In 2017 almost 1,200 researchers were awarded grants totalling €218 million, including the new Society and Enterprise Fellowships. Advice for Irish applicants can be found at the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office in Dublin.


For further information please contact:

Maeve Gebruers | Printed Materials & PR Officer | ITMA
73 Merrion Sq. Dublin 2, D02 WK75, Ireland | +353 1 661 9699 | @ITMADublin |

Meet Lynnsey Weissenberger, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at ITMA (7/31/2017)
Lynnsey in Miltown. Photo by Maeve Gebruers.

I’m delighted to begin working with ITMA this month. It’s been quite a journey–from our discussions and application process last year around this time, to our current preparations to begin this 2-year project. Now, I find myself in Dublin and ready to get to work!

It is my hope that I can further ITMA’s valuable work through our LITMUS (Linked Irish Traditional MUSic) project. Our aim is to open up the collections even further using this tool of linked data, and eventually allow anyone across the world to explore topics, people, tunes, relationships, songs, helping them learn more about traditional Irish music and dance.

Although I’m tasked with something very technical, for me, it’s a calling that goes far beyond the computer. I can thank my teacher and friend James Kelly for making me keenly aware of the rich history, archival recordings, and influential musicians of the (distant and recent) past that help shape our approaches today. I remember learning about these musicians through James’ colorful stories, sometimes punctuated with tunes learned from the many visitors to his father’s house and shop on Capel Street here in Dublin. And, certainly we had many lively discussions on today’s music and musical approaches.

As I continue along my own musical journey, I cherish these stories, memories, and tunes, while also immersing myself in more academic questions of how to best represent Irish (and other) traditional music using information technology, and how to organize musical knowledge passed along primarily through oral transmission. It’s somewhat like chasing a moving train–we don’t stop making music, singing songs, dancing sets, or telling stories–nor do we continue to do so in quite the same way as those before us.

This is why I’m especially honored to join a “living archive,” one that maintains its connection to the present tradition and those involved in shaping it. As the tradition moves onward, so does the logistical task of enabling access to all kinds of materials (past and present) for those who practise it, research it, teach it, and appreciate it.

The fellowship with ITMA will be an intense period of great learning for me, along with the opportunity to build something that can have a lasting impact. Through the new ITMA website, and through social media (stay tuned!), I look forward to sharing our progress with you in the coming months.



LITMUS Update: September 2017 (9/28/2017)

LW_Presenting_ISKO_UK2017Lynnsey Weissenberger gave presentations about LITMUS during two international conferences this month. Both presentations focused on the challenges of constructing the linked data ontology for Irish traditional music and dance, both because of special considerations with the music and due to a lack of complete available resources for description.

The first presentation, titled Stories, Songs, Steps, and Tunes: A Linked Data Ontology for Irish Traditional Music and Dance was presented at the International Society for Knowledge Organization, UK chapter biennial conference in London on the 11th of September.

Next, Lynnsey presented on Constructing a Linked Data Ontology for Irish Traditional Music: Challenges and Opportunities at the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives conference in Berlin, Germany on the 18th of September.

Finally, in cooperation with Trinity College Dublin and Science Gallery Dublin, Lynnsey and other Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Fellows in Ireland gave a brief presentation on their research for European Researchers’ Night 2017: Probe at TCD. The event, titled “Café Curie” took place on the campus of Trinity College Dublin on the evening of the 29th of September.

For her “Café Curie” presentation, Lynnsey explained the importance of musical and personal relationships in Irish traditional music, playing an example of these relationships on the fiddle, and describing how LITMUS will make these connections come to light.

LITMUS Research Repository (10/23/2017)

Keep up with our research progress here at the Linked Irish Traditional Music (LITMUS) project.

zenodo-gradient-2500As the project progresses, all research outputs will be uploaded to our open-access research repository at Zenodo. If versions are updated, all versions of the publication will be made available.

The paper “Stories, Songs, Steps, and Tunes: A Linked Data Ontology for Irish Traditional Music and Dance” from Lynnsey Weissenberger’s September 2017 presentation at the International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO), UK/Ireland chapter conference is now available full-text within the repository.

Introducing LITMUS [Video] (11/2/2017)

LITMUS is a 2-year Horizon2020 project at the Irish Traditional Music Archive working to build a linked data ontology to better express what occurs within oral transmission, focusing on Irish traditional music and dance.

Watch our introductory video to learn more – in plain language – about LITMUS:

November 2017 Update (11/21/2017)

Many new developments took place during October and November. After attending a workshop on Protégé (a free ontology authoring software) and OWL (Web Ontology Language) in October, Lynnsey has begun work on the higher-level LITMUS ontology.

A higher level ontology is one that tries to cover the over-arching aspects of a knowledge domain, such as Irish traditional music and dance. Without getting into too many levels of granularity, such as listing every dance tune in existence (good luck if you’d like a go at that!), a higher-level ontology tries to account for situational and contextual factors.

We developed and released a video about LITMUS, which has gotten a wonderful response. Many thanks to ITMA staff for helping with the video: Brian Doyle for recording and mastering Lynnsey’s narration and fiddle music, and Treasa Harkin for help with the rights and permissions for the images used. And, special thanks to photographers Danny Diamond and Tony Kearns, as well as the late Tom Munnelly, for the use of their brilliant images of musicians and dancers.

On the 6th of November, Lynnsey had the opportunity to present her paper “Documenting Irish Traditional Music and Dance” at the Documenting Performance symposium, held by City, University of London. In addition to discussing the LITMUS project, Lynnsey played a slow air version and one of the hornpipe versions of “The Blackbird” on the fiddle, and danced the Blackbird set dance.

In demonstrating these versions, she wanted to convey the complex relationships between the melodies (song air and dance tunes) along with the different interpretations of The Blackbird set dance choreography. The version Lynnsey danced was learned from old-style stepdancers Céline and Michael Tubridy (ITMA video found here).

Lynnsey presented an overview of the LITMUS project to students from the National University of Ireland at Galway (NUIG) Irish Studies MA programme visiting ITMA on 10th of November. In addition, she presented a paper at the British and Irish Sound Archives (BISA) conference held in Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland on 17-18 of November.

ICTM‑IE/SMI Annual Postgraduate Conference (1/18/2018)

ITMA’s Treasa Harkin and Dr. Lynnsey Weissenberger presented at this year’s joint ICTM-IE/SMI Annual Postgraduate Conference in Maynooth University.

On Friday, the 19th of January 2018, two of ITMA staff were featured in the Digital Research and Special Information Session during the joint annual postgraduate conference of the Irish National Committee of the International Council for Traditional Music and the Society for Musicology in Ireland.

ITMA’s Treasa Harkin (Governance & Images Officer) and Lynnsey Weissenberger (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow) gave a joint talk entitled The Irish Traditional Music Archive: LITMUS Project and Research Resources.

The conference was held in the Music Department at Maynooth University on the 19th and 20th of January, 2018.



More information and full programme details can be found here:

Top 3 Questions About LITMUS (2/27/2018)

While LITMUS is in development, I wanted to take time and answer the top three questions I get asked by researchers, academics, and other interested people I meet in sessions (among other informal settings).

1. What will your ontology–and linked data in general–actually allow us to do?

Originally taken from philosophy and now applied within the computing world, an ontology is essentially a toolkit that can be used to describe some area of knowledge on the web. In the case of LITMUS, we’re describing the realm of Irish traditional music (instrumental and song) and dance. Ontologies provide guidance on how to describe objects in linked data, and are referenced using exact web addresses for people/places/things/ideas. An example is the web-based location for the relationship member of within the Music Ontology:

The ultimate goal of linked data is to provide the means to describe digital objects on the web using structured data that is machine readable, making connections between objects at a granular level. There are three components to each statement of linked data: subject, predicate, and object. The subject can be something like a person/place/thing/idea, the predicate is a relationship of some kind, and the object can also be a person/place/thing/idea.

An example of this triple (three component description) is the relationship between John Kelly Sr., the renowned fiddle and concertina player from Clare, and his son, fiddler James Kelly. We can say in regular, natural language that James Kelly’s music is/was influenced by the music of his father John Kelly Sr. In structured data, however, we need to specify exactly the person we mean (separate from other James and John Kellys in the world) and reference the relationship type from an already-published ontology. All of these references are web addresses that lead to more information or a record of the person/place/thing/idea:

<> (James Kelly’s Wikidata ID)
<> (relationship*)
<> (John Kelly’s MusicBrainz ID)

*This URI is no longer working, however it is still referenced at

One exciting part about LITMUS is that it will provide even more detailed relationships to describe Irish traditional music and dance objects than exist within current ontologies. This is especially helpful when we want to mirror the language that musicians and dancers use to talk about what they do.

In developing these relationships, samples taken from 50 years of album notes for traditional music have given relationships such as “playedRegularlyIn” or “firstHeardSung.” With both of those relationship examples, interesting links between music, people, and places can be made and explored when used to describe actual objects. Questions can then be posed and answered. For instance: How many musicians have said they first heard x song from a particular singer? Which tunes have been described as being “playedRegularlyIn” County Limerick?

A feature of linked data description is that multiple relationships can be applied to the same sets of objects or between two people/places/things/ideas. The same two people can be said to be “associatedWith” and “influencedBy” one another, along with many other possibilities.

When the ontology is complete, it will be published to the web and then it can be used for description of digital objects. Because LITMUS focuses on the development of the ontology, it will not progress to the point of large-scale implementation (converting ITMA’s entire catalogue to linked data, for example), but will include a use case applying the ontology to a selection of digital objects from ITMA’s collection.

2. What kinds of sources are you using to develop the ontology?

I am developing properties (relationships) for the ontology using a sample of over 30 commercial album notes taken from over 50 years of recordings, spanning from 1962-2015. The content of these album notes imitates situations in which musicians describe music in person, such as when announcing sets/songs from the stage, in a session, or in conversation with students. The sample includes solo and band recordings–both instrumental and vocal (Irish and English)–with male and female musicians.

This is an example of text and relationships derived from album notes. The album is One Out of the Fort from fiddle player Johnny Henry, released in 2012 using recorded material from 1964, 1973, 1977-8, and 1981. The notes were written by fiddler James Kelly.

Sources for other aspects of the ontology include published academic texts that give insight into the structure or organisation of music and dance as well as terminology, includng: The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, 2nd edition (Vallely, 2011); Narrative Singing in Ireland: Lays Ballads, Come-all-yes and Other Songs (Shields, 1993); and, A Selection of Irish Traditional Step Dances (Tubridy, 1998). Other sources include the article “Ireland” in Grove Music Online written by Harry White and Director Emeritus of ITMA Nicholas Carolan, particularly the sections on “Instruments” and “Traditional Music.” ITMA staff have proved invaluable resources when looking to determine structure and context of traditional music and dance practise.

3. How will you determine particular relationships, such as when something is “influenced by” or “associated with” something else?

Often we know, either explicitly or implicitly, that these relationships are there. When examining album notes or published resources, relationships are largely explicit or present in the text. We cannot always rely upon relationships to be documented through published sources, such as within album notes, memoirs, or academic books. Those relationships that are not found within published sources and that instead are grounded in oral tradition can still be discovered in a number of ways.

First, there is usually one or more persons who can act as reliable sources of information, such as family members, students, or friends. We might have materials housed in ITMA’s collections, such as audio recordings or videos, in which musicians or dancers are heard describing and/or narrating the content. This description/narration might not be captured in any additional kind of transcript or text, but is there for reference and could be used to describe the item in linked data.

We can also make careful inferences regarding relationships. If we know a musician got a tune or multiple tunes “fromPlayingOf” Willie Clancy, and this musician also “playedRegularlyWith” Willie Clancy, we might also infer that this musician was “associatedWith” him and, perhaps–if enough other relationship evidence supports it–infer s/he was “influencedBy” Willie Clancy.

What makes linked data powerful is its descriptive detail and nuance. These same strengths are what makes implementing it using cultural heritage materials all the more challenging!

LITMUS Latest Spring-Summer (7/17/2018)

LITMUS has been in the spotlight at several conferences this spring/summer:

Project lead Lynnsey Weissenberger has also published an article titled “Linked data in music and its potential for ITMA/traditional music web resources” in Brio, the journal of the UK/Ireland chapter of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres (IAML).

Publications related to LITMUS are available within the project’s Zenodo repository.

LITMUS at Association of Performing Arts Collections, November 2018 (11/9/2018)

ITMA Marie Curie Fellow Lynnsey Weissenberger was invited to speak at the 2018 Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) Study Day on 9 November at NUI Galway.


In keeping to the symposium’s theme—Digitisation and born digital collections: where are we now and what’s the next big thing?—speakers covered various digital topics and the future of libraries and archives. Lynnsey’s talk was titled “Linked Data and Traditional Music Archives – Where can we go from here?” and described future possibilities for linked data in archives, especially related to the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

More information is available on the APAC website:

APAC is the membership organisation for professionals, specialists, and other individuals working with performing arts heritage in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Read more.

[Original ITMA blog post]