This is part of a larger tutorial created and presented as "A hands on introduction to GeoBlacklight".

GeoBlacklight Overview

Why and what is GeoBlacklight?

GeoBlacklight is a Ruby on Rails engine, based on the popular open-source project Blacklight. The aim of the project is to provide a simple, effective open-source application for discovery of geospatial data. Many institutions are using GeoBlacklight to provide a search engine across a federated catalog of geospatial data.

Discovery services and metadata have been key challenges for many organizations who provide geospatial data. GeoBlacklight hopes to build on the successes of projects like OpenGeoPortal and Blacklight by integrating with an ecosystem of plugins and an already active developer community. Bridging the gap between the digital library and geospatial communities, GeoBlacklight aims to bring expertise from both fields to provide a better experience for finding geospatial data.

What do you mean by geospatial data?

We primarily mean Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data which are structured data in specific file formats (Shapefiles, Rasters, etc.). That is, GIS data you would be serving through a spatial data infrastructure (SDI).

GeoBlacklight is flexible enough, however, to act as a discovery service for a variety of sources, but is designed for GIS data specifically. Traditionally GIS and SDI software have not done great job at discovery and has always felt like an afterthought, thus the opportunity for GeoBlacklight to advance the state of GIS data discovery.

But I don’t have a spatial data infrastructure?

That’s ok. GIS data indexed into GeoBlacklight becomes progressively more useful based on the services that back them. For example, the minimum required metadata for GeoBlacklight is a bounding box, title, and description, and no references to services that will actually provide that data are required. GeoBlacklight can also help with serving static files available through a URL. Moreover, GeoBlacklight also natively supports IIIF objects, so organizations who have IIIF servers for scanned maps can start using GeoBlacklight today.

The GeoBlacklight Schema, Version 1.0 uses a field dct_references_s to define external services and references. See the External references section for a list of possible key:value pairs and instructions on how to apply them.

Software projects and communities

GeoBlacklight (the Ruby on Rails, Blacklight based application) is part of a larger effort to provide library services to geospatial data users. Several additional software augment GeoBlacklight and discovery capabilities.

Metadata Sharing

Worth mentioning is a collaborative effort, OpenGeoMetadata, which aims to share geospatial metadata in an open way. Instead of focusing on building an application that must be deployed at multiple institutions, OpenGeoMetadata uses GitHub as a common, highly available repository. Using GitHub as a platform allows for software development to focus on conversion tools and harvesting tools.

OpenGeoMetadata builds on the groundwork laid by the OpenGeoPortal Metadata Working group.

GeoBlacklight Feature Set

GeoBlacklight extends the functionality of Blacklight by providing the following:

  • spatial search with a spatial relevancy algorithm
  • download functionality for geospatial web services
  • map view of search results
  • easily customizable
  • extendable to new types of data and functionality
  • and more…