I got a chance to meet Jennifer Rigby of the National Archives UK at the LinkedDataPlanet Conference in New York City (thanks Ian). Jennifer is the Head of IT Strategy, and told me lots of interesting stuff related to a profound shift they’ve had in their online strategies to:

Provide and Enable

So rather than pouring all their energy into making applications to visualize archival resources, the National Archives have recognized that making machine readable resources available to the public (in formats like RDF and RDFa) is really important to their core mission. In addition to providing services and data, they are trying to enable an ecosystem of innovation around their assets–or in their words:

• We will allow others to harness the power of our information, leading to a far wider range of products and services than we could provide ourselves.
• We will continue to work with commercial partners to provide online access to millions of records.

Jennifer said we can look forward to an announcement around OpenTech2008 (July 5th) about a set of important publications that are going to made available by the Archives as RDF and RDFa. In addition I heard about how they work with website data harvested by Internet Archive to create a resolver service for transient publications on the web.

Hearing how a big organization like the National Archives can come to this realization of “Provide and Enable”, and then start to execute on it was really encouraging–and inspiring. It is also refreshing to see people recognize, in writing the importance of semantic web technologies:

We have started exploring new ideas and technologies, including using RDFa for publishing the Gazettes. The way we now publish legislation has a key role to play in the further development of the semantic web.