Making Use of Pre-existing Street Art Object Metadata

  • Martin de la Iglesia
Keywords: data mining, data science, data wrangling, digitisation, metadata, non-academic publishing


In graffiti and street art studies, we are currently facing a paradoxical situation: vast numbers of publications relevant to our field—some of them academic, most of them not; from journal papers to coffee-table books—are continuously being published, but even the scholarly-oriented among them typically provide only sparse data about individual graffiti pieces and street art objects. It is rare to find complete metadata records containing information about the artist, the precise location, measurements, and the date of completion. Efforts are being made by individual projects and researchers to gather comprehensive and structured metadata, but those efforts take time and yield only small amounts of data. While it is important that these efforts are continued, a different, complementary approach is proposed here that aims to ‘quickly and dirtily’ gather ‘messy’ data. The idea is to make use of work that has already been carried out instead of trying to describe the same artworks in better ways time and again. This requires us to learn how to deal with incomplete data from vastly different sources. Effectively, such an approach lowers the threshold for data sources to become useful for street art researchers. Almost anything can become a valuable resource, even amateur websites (including abandoned ones) and print publications about local and obscure street art. This paper demonstrates how to extract object metadata from street art websites and digitised printed books, and how to feed it into a database that can be a potential treasure trove of street art object data.

Author Biography

Martin de la Iglesia

Martin de la Iglesia (°1982) is an art historian and librarian. He currently works at Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel (Germany) in the field of Digital Humanities. In 2007 he received his Master’s degree from Humboldt University of Berlin. He has recently completed his PhD in Art History at Heidelberg University, and his thesis on the early reception of manga in the West will be published soon. Martin’s main areas of interest as a researcher include comics, street art, and various other forms of contemporary art and popular culture. He blogs at and maintains a website on stencil graffiti at

How to Cite
de la Iglesia, M. (2023). Making Use of Pre-existing Street Art Object Metadata. Document | Archive | Disseminate Graffiti-Scapes, 175 - 187.