Handling multiple elements eg departments

I am working on a university project where we want to use OSM data, and will be updating the mapping and adding tags. However I am wondering what might be the best way to manage elements such as department names and urls.

A building has a name (eg Davis Hall) and departments (eg Geography and Geology). In order to make these searchable we are placing “Geography; Geology” in the alternative names tag.

Should we also/alternatively use a tag such as “department” to hold this? Would this be useful to the OSM community? Ideally it would be nice to have a department:name, department:name:url or something to keep values together. Is this possible or desirable? Can we associate a url with a department:name? eg department: Geography; Geology department:Geography:url: url etc. Or do we need to use relations (I am new to OSM so not sure what the best way to do use relations might be).

I see that a university:departments tag has been used before, but it isn’t common, and there may be a more generic version around. Again, we are limited to separating the values with “;” as we can only have unique keys, resulting in url: url1; url2.

thanks in advance,


Unfortunately, there isn’t really an established solution for problems like that. Relations would be great from a data model point of view, but these are not very popular because they are hard to grasp for new mappers - and editing programs aren’t really good at dealing with them imo. This leaves semicolon-separated value lists as the pragmatic, but somewhat unsatisfactory alternative.

If there isn’t really isn’t an established solution, you are free to experiment and invent your own. Be aware, though, that they will probably be standardised if an universally accepted solution should arise.