Implicit Relationships

Implicit Relationships

An implicit relationship is one where two items are related to each other by virtue of having common data that creates an association between them. In contrast, an explicit relationship is one that an archivist manually adds a relationship between two items.

The Digital Archive recognizes two kinds of implicit relationships:

  • When an item’s Creator or Publisher matches the Title of a Reference item,  that item is implicitly related to the Reference item.
  • When an item has the same Address, Place, Source, Subject, or Type as other items, that item is implicitly related to those other items.

When you view an item that has implicit relationships, you’ll see blue and/or orange hyperlinks in the item’s metadata as shown below.

When you click one of the blue links, you’ll be taken to a search results page listing other items in the Archive that have the same value as the link text. In the example above, clicking on the Subject link “Structures, Other, Lighthouse” takes you to a list of all other items in the Archive that have that same subject.

An orange hyperlink appears for the Creator or Publisher value if another item’s Title has exactly the same value. Clicking that link takes you to the item having that title. The orange Creator hyperlink in the example above indicates that another item is titled “Ballard – Willis Humphreys Ballard (1906-1980)”.

Implicit Creator and Publisher relationships make it easy to see the items that a person or organization created or published. When you view the Reference item for a Creator or Publisher, the bottom of the Reference item’s page displays thumbnails of the items created or published by that person or organization. For example, Willis Ballard created many photographs. If you view his Reference item (by clicking the orange link in the screenshot above) and scroll to the bottom of the Reference item’s page, you’ll see thumbnails of some of the images he created as shown in the screenshot below.

For Archivists

Implicit Versus Explicit Relationships

One way to think of the difference between implicit and explicit relationships is that the Digital Archive software automatically identifies implicit relationships by finding matching text in two items, whereas only an archivist who is familiar with the collection can determine how two items are explicitly related. For example, the software does not know that Mary was married to John, or that she was a library trustee. Even if that information is contained in a Reference item for Mary, the software does not have artificial intelligence to parse a biography in one item and automatically identify relationships based on content in other items. The software provides the mechanism for recording and displaying relationships, but it is the archivist’s job to identify and set them.

The Importance of an Exact Match

The Digital Archive software automatically creates the hyperlinks for implicit relationships; however, to maintain implicit Creator and Publisher relationships, the archivist must ensure that the text in the Creator and Publisher fields exactly matches the Reference item Title text for the corresponding Creator or Publisher. Any difference at all, such as an extra space, will break the implicit relationship. Fortunately, the software provides two mechanisms to help maintain an exact match:

  • If you edit the Title of an existing Creator or Publisher item, e.g. to fix a typo or correct a date, the software will automatically find all other items in the Archive that have the original title value (before you changed it) as their Creator or Publisher. It will then update all of those items with your change.
  • When entering a Creator or Publisher value, you can type just part of the value, e.g. a person’s last name, and a list of matching Creator titles will appear for you to choose from so that you don’t have to type the name and possibly introduce a mistake.

For Developers

The logic to automatically create blue hyperlinks for items that have the same value as the link text is provided by the AvantElements plugin.

The logic to automatically create orange hyperlinks in the metadata for implicit relationships, and the logic to display created or published items at the bottom of the page, is provided by the AvantRelationships plugin.

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