Wikidata:Property proposal/organizational unit

organizational unitEdit

Originally proposed at Wikidata:Property proposal/Creative work

   Not done


I am starting this proposal because of a gap we have in our ability to describe cultural collections. I first asked a question about this at Property talk:P195#Museum objects' organizational unit?, but received no response. Currently, we can only describe a collection in terms of (1) the institution two which it belongs (collection (P195)) and (2) the physical location, usually building (location (P276)). What this misses is the organizational unit to which it belongs. That is, within many large institutions, the organization is broken into divisions based on topic area, time period, type of materials, and so on—and objects or collections often list the department responsible for them in their metadata. This concept is distinct from the location, because it is about organizational structure.

For a concrete example, the Rosetta Stone (Q48584) falls under the Ancient Egypt and Sudan Department in the British Museum—simply listing the institution and the location fails to capture that data, which we could add if we make items for the organizational units such as that museum department. I am using examples from NARA above, as that is the collection I am actually working on.

Though it is widespread, there is no standard name for this concept. At NARA, we call it the "reference unit". I can also imagine it being referred to as a "department", "branch", "division", or something else along those lines. Also, sometimes this might be the institution itself, if there are no divisions within it. I proposed "organizational unit" because that seems broadly descriptive, but I am open to alternative suggestions. Dominic (talk) 18:01, 19 December 2018 (UTC)


  • @Dominic: Is this different to maintained by (P126), if something is desired in addition to collection (P195) (which can be applied hierarchically) ? Jheald (talk) 19:14, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
    • @Jheald: I see this property as somewhat different from that one's scope, since it is about the organizational subdivision with direct responsibility, whereas that one could reasonably always take the organization itself as value. I also think the concept of "maintained by" ("keeping the subject in functioning order"), is a little different, since this is more about a set of physical or intellectual responsibilities related to a collection. In my Rosetta Stone example, the Ancient Egypt and Sudan Department at the British Museum doesn't "maintain" the object, but they do things like preserve, catalog, and describe it. And, more to the point, they are listed in a "Department" field in the catalog metadata, so clearly that is relevant in some way. There is clearly a concept here that needs modeling, and I think it makes sense as something with scope limited to cultural heritage collections, though I am struggling a bit in defining it succinctly. Dominic (talk) 19:36, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
      • @Dominic: According to its aliases maintained by (P126) is also intended to cover "custodian", and in French "conservé par", so (like most property labels) the name should be read broadly.
Alternatively, if the collection is divided up hierarchically, with different organisational units responsible for different bits of it, a more 'Wikidata' way of representing that might be to create new sub-collection items for the different parts of the collection - eg "British Museum Ancient Egypt & Sudan collection".
But the present name is not good. Something to indicate what it is that the property is saying connects the item to the value is needed. "Responsible organisational subunit" might be better -- that could at least suggest the property is about the idea of having responsibility for things. Jheald (talk) 20:04, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
  • Looking at the properties we currently have on items that are statement-values of collection (P195) statements (excluding human beings), it seems that at present we have 37 with maintained by (P126) statements, and 87 with operator (P137) statements. May be worth looking into these.
Current uses of maintained by (P126):; current uses of operator (P137):
Not exactly the uses you're looking for, but not necessarily incompatible with it, especially at the level a step up from the object level. Jheald (talk) 20:21, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
  •   Oppose label is too vague, it's not clear how this would differentiate from other properties. If you just need a property for "NARA reference units", please call it "NARA reference unit". --- Jura 06:46, 22 December 2018 (UTC)
  •   Comment What about business division (P199) or subsidiary (P355)?--Jklamo (talk) 12:52, 28 December 2018 (UTC)
  •   Oppose With current name and description it would likely be used outside of what it's intended for. ChristianKl❫ 12:31, 13 January 2019 (UTC)