In Spring 2013, we anticipate that MESA will have in place a full submission process. Please check back for news as it happens. In the meantime, we provide detailed information about the RDF specifications that will be used by the MESA federation.


RDF is the metadata format that contributors use to make their resources available for use within MESA. With RDF, contributors describe each of their resources in general terms that allow those resources to be categorized and searched through COLLEX.

On this page, contributors can find basic information about RDF files. For technical specifications and links to sample RDF submissions and sample XSL transformations (used to turn XML resources into RDF) see the Collex wiki.


Resource Description Framework, or RDF, is the descriptive data which MESA uses in COLLEX; through the metadata contained by the RDF, COLLEX makes peer reviewed resources findable, interconnected, and ready for repurposing.

RDF is an XML metadata model used for describing resources as part of the Semantic Web. MESA contributors identify the basic features of their digital objects, such as the title, creator, publisher, date of composition, genre, even a list of the component objects that make a greater whole. The MESA metadata scheme leverages some preexisting schemes, such as Dublin Core and Library of Congress Relator Terms.

Those interested in the nuts and bolts of RDF can find general information on Wikipedia. Details on the generalized RDF specification can be found through the World Wide Web Consortium.

In thinking about the RDF creation process, contributors should first decide on how to define objects in their resources. The RDF metadata scheme is predicated on the description of objects, but what comprises an object is left to the discretion of the contributor. Contributors would be best to think of defining their objects as the units that contributors wish to make browseable, collectible, and available for repurposing.

For example, a transcription of a prayer book would have an object for the unit of “the prayer book.” But a contributor could also decide that the individual prayers which constitute that prayer book might also be interesting to collect on their own; the contributor would then make RDF objects for each textual unit as well. One could easily imagine a collection of homilies receiving a similar distillation of its many layers: one RDF object for the homilary as a whole; one object for each author; one object for each homily; one object for each illuminated capital; even objects for any commentary or other marginalia. Another contributor could treat a similar work in a totally dissimilar way, viewing the bibliographic page as the elementary unit instead of the logical divisions. While contributors are free to create whatever granularity or type of objectification they would like, their reason should be guided by a sensible judgment of what other scholars will find useful for collection and annotation. A large book rendered as a monolithic object won’t help to reveal the rich resources of its individual chapters, stories, poems, or pictures. Likewise, a poetry anthology atomized into single lines of verse would have little use for collection and prove a nightmare for browsing.


MESA is an aggregator of digital resources, bringing together disparate projects into a common arena. This means that MESA does not host the material for any given site, but rather indexes metadata (RDF) contributed by those sites. There are many varieties of structured data, from XML databases to texts encoded according to standards of Text Encoding Initiave (TEI), and RDF allows MESA to bring them all in communication with each other. However, this situation requires that contributors maintain contact with the staff at MESA, and alert us to any major updates or changes in site structure. It is important that MESA be able to present an up-to-date version of each project, and assure internal stability so that users may collect, annotate and work with digital objects to the fullest extent possible in Collex.


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