As linked data technology has developed over the last several years, the Linked Jazz project has continued to experiment — most recently interlinking our core jazz name entity list, derived from oral histories, with other jazz archival materials and their related metadata. Our research benefits from many ongoing collaborations, including that with Jeff Rubin and The Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University (our work identifying jazz relationships through historical photographs from Tulane University archives has been described here by William Levay), and with Gino Francesconi and Rob Hudson at the Carnegie Hall Archives. This post details a pilot we conducted to identify jazz musicians in both the Linked Jazz network and a subset of the Carnegie Hall Performance History Database focusing on jazz events from 1912-1955. From these entity matches, we created a visualization of the shared relationships between the two datasets. This first step in data interlinking allowed us to explore the possibilities as well as the limitations of the data integration process, and to identify common problems and best practices when reviewed alongside related use cases.
Gino Francesconi, Director of the Archives and Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall, recently published a wonderful blog post detailing the story of how the Archives learned of a Carnegie Hall concert that they had no record of called simply JAZZ: female. It had taken place on November 29, 1957, at the same time as the historically famous Thanksgiving benefit for the Morningside Community Center featuring some of the biggest names in jazz. One of the performers from this “forgotten” event, Zena Latto, had reached out to Carnegie Hall through Alexis Warrington, a graduate student at Florida State University, and Suzanne Lyda, director of social services at River Garden Hebrew Home where Zena lived. Zena, then 89 years old, shared a tattered flyer from her personal collection that documented the 1957 event. The Carnegie Hall Archives sent the flyer to the Northeast Document Conservation Center, and it is now beautifully conserved and held at Carnegie Hall.
Women in Jazz and Telling Zena Latto’s Story
Gino Francesconi and Rob Hudson, Associate Archivist at Carnegie Hall and a friend of the Linked Jazz Project, reached out to Linked Jazz Director Cristina Pattuelli about Zena because of our project’s ongoing work to reveal relationships in the jazz community. We were excited to connect with Zena given our particular focus on helping increase the visibility of women in jazz and lesser-known musicians who are often left out of the jazz narrative. We organized Women in Jazz Wikipedia Edit-a-thons in 2014 and 2015, and have released a gender view as part of our Network Visualization tool from Karen Hwang’s work on enriching our network with gender information from linked open data sources including DBpedia, MusicBrainz, and VIAF. We have also been working to add new archival transcript data for women in jazz to our LOD-driven searchable network as part of the Women of Jazz: From the Archives to the Web of Jazz Data project, generously supported by the 2016 Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation-JEN Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian.
We connected with Zena and interviewed her via Skype in March 2015. The interview was conducted by Karen Hwang, who played an integral role in coordinating the connection, along with Cristina Pattuelli. Zena shared memories of growing up in the Bronx, of being inspired and mentored by Benny Goodman and hanging out on 52nd Street in the New York jazz scene, touring with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm into the 1950s and the racism the band faced as an interracial group, and of how she came to play at Carnegie Hall. The interview transcript is published on the Internet Archive; we also created a Wikipedia page for Zena.
“Everybody thought I was crazy. They were afraid I was going to become one of the girls that hang out with the guys, you know. I hung out with the guys, but nothing like that. No, everything was music. And one day I went to Benny [Goodman], and I said, “I want to take clarinet lessons.”
-Excerpt from Zena Latto Interview, March 2015
We were very sorry to hear of Zena’s recent passing at the age of 90. Linked Jazz is honored to have had the opportunity to talk with Zena and to share some of her stories. Our team is now working to inventory and digitize a small collection of records containing Zena’s memorabilia, writings, and photographs, and is excited to continue to honor Zena’s life and career by adding additional items to the Internet Archive collection and exploring her network of influences through our ongoing work using linked open data technologies.
Many thanks to our friends at the Carnegie Hall Archives, and to Suzanne Lyda and Zena’s community who enabled our connection to Zena.
Inspired by Judy Chaikin’s “The Girls in the Band”, a documentary spotlighting the lesser-known history of women in jazz, Linked Jazz set out in 2014 to amplify the stories of jazz women by processing more interviews with female jazz musicians. A result of this activity was that the percentage of women in our list of people mentioned in interviews seemed to grow at a more rapid pace than previously. The list until then had been overwhelmingly men. We wondered: Could we preliminarily assume that jazz women mention other women in the context of their lives and careers more often than men in jazz mention women? This was more a tangential observation for us than a formal research area to pursue. But we realized adding such attributes to our list of names could enable new discoveries for users. Enriching our dataset of 2000+ names with gender information became Linked Jazz’s first attempt to create a data mash-up with other open sets of data that provide semantic definition.
The Linked Jazz project has derived most of the social relationships in its dataset from the transcripts of oral histories given by jazz musicians. One question we began to ask some time ago is: what other jazz historical material in digital form would be a good source of additional relationship data? One answer to that question is digitized photographs, specifically those with good-quality metadata.
Tulane University has a rich collection of historical photographs of jazz musicians living and performing in New Orleans and around the world. The Hogan Jazz Archive Photography Collection and Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography are two such collections, and we received two tab-delimited text files from Tulane, exported from their CONTENTdm system.
Some numbers: in this set we have 1,787 images, at least 681 unique individuals, and more than 2,700 depictions. Depiction is the FOAF term that we later used as a predicate in our triples from this dataset. One group photograph might depict several individuals, and one individual might be depicted in several photographs. People depicted in the same photograph can be said to “know” each other in some way.
In this post, we’ll describe the process we used to first standardize and reconcile the photograph metadata, and then describe the photographs and the people and relationships depicted using RDF triples. Continue reading