LITMUS Launch: Explore Irish Traditional Music and Dance as Linked Data

Today marked the launch of the Linked Irish Traditional Music (LITMUS) project at ITMA. Led by ITMA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow Dr Lynnsey Weissenberger, the LITMUS project was an ambitious, 2-year undertaking to take Irish traditional music and dance into the cultural heritage linked data landscape. 

Insight Launch
L to R: Prof Noel O'Connor, INSIGHT Director; Dr Lynnsey Weissenberger, ITMA MSCA Fellow; Grace Toland, ITMA Director; Prof Mathieu d'Aquin, Data Science Institute Director, NUIG INSIGHT; Juanjo Nieto, DCU INSIGHT.

It focused on the development of a linked data ontology and vocabularies, now available at

Linked data ontologies are used to create machine-understandable models of knowledge areas. The LITMUS ontology is an extension of FRBRoo, an ontology designed for application in museums and libraries. The LITMUS Ontology added 38 additional classes and 77 properties to FRBRoo, creating a solid framework for describing traditional music and dance performances, practices, and documentation.

Additionally, three bi-lingual thesauri provide instrument and tune type terminology that can be used independent of the LITMUS ontology. It is our hope that these tools will find additional use outside the archive and extend into other areas of traditional music and dance, many who face similar considerations due to the varied, informal nature of music transmission.

Many of the LITMUS ontology’s properties (which are relationships between things) are applicable to other music and dance traditions. In her research at ITMA, Dr Weissenberger examined numerous album notes by musicians of the past 40-50 years to analyse how musicians described relationships within the tradition. She also consulted many written reference sources to determine terminology, organisation of concepts, and overall structures of music and dance.

LITMUS has made the first steps towards enabling greater access to ITMA’s collections. We have the tools now to describe collections in even greater detail, and can make explicit the relationships we know are there – they can be documented by using the LITMUS ontology and thesauri. Within LITMUS, we can account for renderings of the same or similar melody across many different forms of music, and even into related dance forms. We can account for similarities in personal repertoire between musicians and dancers, such as one singer knowing the same version of a song sung by another. This empowers our library and archival cataloguing work with the means to describe what occurs within traditional music and dance. This will in turn enable greater access and ability to make new connections between resources.

Using the LITMUS tools, you can explore the data from TG4 Gradam Ceoil performances of the past 20 years. The metadata from these performances were generated as part of a collaboration between ITMA and TG4, which resulted in a joint digital archive launched almost a year ago. With help from The Insight Centre for Data Analytics, we’ve transformed this into a linked data set built using the LITMUS ontology and thesauri.

Visit where you can view the ontology, thesauri, and the linked data pilot using Gradam Ceoil performance data. Download press release here.