Access to on-line information has become one of the hot topics of
the builders and users of the interactive knowledge environment. In
the virtual world, the collective presence and role of the museum
community can be enhanced by providing effective access and retrieval
strategies that relate the different types of available information,
offer the potential for integrating and extending its value and relevancy,
and help reveal implicit narratives embedded in it. Beyond this, consideration
must be given to the potential experiences that can be offered to
on-line audiences, given the variety of their perspectives and expectations.
Roy Ascott,  describing the
nature of on-line display, in his article entitled "The Digital Museum"
"To talk about the digital museum is to talk about two things - behavior
Behavior refers to the dialogue between the users and the knowledge
environment. It consists of the ways the users can express their expectations
and the ways the responses are adapted or tailored to meet these expectations.
In essence, it consists of the processes or methods for communication,
learning, knowing, perceiving or organizing the available on-line
Architecture refers to the building blocks of the organization of
information and communication on multiple levels of meaning and interpretation.
Architecture is the reflection of the knowledge of the domain, mirrored
by the arrangements of the components to form patterns different from
what could occur by chance.
While defining the "Intellectual Access" Project at CHIN, in addition
to behavior and architecture, we came across a third, very important
component, which we added to our research domain.
"To talk about the digital museum is to talk about its context".
Context refers to the situation or environment in which cognitive
activities occur. The surroundings, conditions or influences, especially
those affecting the existence or development of the objects under
consideration, such as place, time or social roles, are all factors
influencing how the context is interpreted.
In undertaking basic documentation of collections, museums have already
created architectural structures of knowledge representation, classification
and interpretation. Museum websites are virtual realms that now could
be oriented towards actions or processes of contribution and construction,
creation and remembrance, interaction and dialogue. Museum information
is so important in the process of constructing a virtual culture,
that is, where myth and action, memory and future can be linked. This
specific virtual environment is fulfilling simultaneously two important
functions. The ideational function represents the world around us,
connecting the natural to the artificial, the real to the virtual,
challenging traditional notions of the authentic versus the reproduced,
creating a new feeling of beauty or value. The interpersonal function
enables social interaction.
With these three components in mind, (behavior, architecture,
and context), CHIN undertook a project called "Intellectual access"
to investigate and test access requirements. The goal of the project
was to develop an intelligent tool to provide effective and enjoyable
access to on-line information developed by Canadian museums, to guide
and to assist the use of the information, and to encourage the development
of a community resource and collaborative creativity. Owing to the
complexity of the problem a phased approach was adopted. This paper
will report on the first two phases:
- Phase 1: Redesigning Access - The Integrator
- Phase 2: Redesigning Access to the National Inventories.
Architecturally, the project looks at the potential of the integration
of all the available knowledge components and, as integration is a
process of increasing the number of connections, it has proved to
be very much dependent on representation and design issues. What seems
ordered and comprehensible on one level, becomes meaningless on another:
for example 20,000 paintings organized by style as opposed to 20,000
paintings with no organization.
Behaviorally, the project considers procedures for providing various
ways to access information:
- by dynamic overviews, according to concepts or points of view
chosen by the user
- using the organization of a categorization tool, a well-established
- through pre-defined points of access.
The access procedures are conceived more like construction tools,
using filtering and browsing techniques. But as the access procedures
are addressing an integrated environment and, as integration is a
process of increasing the number of connections, categorization is
a basic element for the provision of meaningful information.
In the future, the project will investigate means to develop dialogue,
a narrative course and its components.
From the context perspective the project will study the notions of
authentic versus reproduced and methods to contextualize information.
Access, interaction and integration are the processes that enable
the creation of the knowledge artifact. The knowledge artifact is
the result of the user's research. It is a construct, a map or a maze
of relations, a hypothetical system, having an interpretive value,
involving a distributed collection of inter-connected knowledge entities
or a new set of relationships established by the architectural components
of the information environment, possibly creating new behavior.
Redesigning Access - Phase 1: "The Integrator"
The first phase of the project dealt mainly with the architectural
aspects related to the development of effective access. The idea was
to construct an information architecture where a specialized tool,
which we have called "The Integrator", could access and search the
different available resources.
The integration operated only on a conceptual level. The goal was
not to alter the individual resources. Each resource was to be accessed
sequentially and was supposed to work according to its own rules,
navigation options and interface issues. In this way, the identity
of each participating resource and its uniqueness expressing the original
and creative aspects was respected. Synthesis occurred only as an
intermediary between the query formulation and the results display.
Access to an integrated environment, possibly including distributed
resources, with different conceptual and physical organizations, for
example, references, thesauri, dictionaries, inventories, bibliographies,
etc. - was defined as one of the main goals of this phase. The user
was offered one single entry point to the whole information environment.
The search request could be addressed to all the available resources
or to any combination, according to the user's choice. The first answer
the system provided was a quantitative one: 300,000 or 10 or 50. The
provision of this intermediary phase, interfering between the search
request and the results display is an incipient form for dialogue.
The quantitative answer might stimulate the user to refine or broaden
the search to get a browsable and meaningful result.
A legitimate question at this point was:
"How does the Integrator delimit the information environment to be
At this initial phase only the resources that were known to the system
and that could be controlled were considered. This restriction was
established in order to test and validate the concepts and the methods
involved in the integration before considering its application in
a larger environment.
In the future, when the Integrator is available in a more open environment,
a list of types of resources would be more effective than names. It
is difficult to control the length of the list and the names do not
always adequately describe the type of resource. 
At this phase other types of active links were created and tested,
for example between the information item and the real object through
the Guide to Canadian Museums and Galleries. An information
item about an object from a museum was linked through the "Institution
Name" to the Guide to Canadian Museums and Galleries, http://www.chin.gc.ca/Museums/e_museums.html>
which could lead the user to the respective museum's web site. The
artist's name was linked to the Artists in Canada database,
which is a resource under the coordination of the National Gallery
of Canada Library. An external authority resource, the Union List
of Artist Names, developed by the Getty Information Institute
was also made available <http://www.gii.getty.edu/ulan_browser/>.
Object type/name was linked to the terminology in The Art
& Architecture Thesaurus developed by the Getty Information
Phase 2: Redesigning Access to the National Inventories
The Integrator brought to light the following issues:
- The user could still be faced with hundreds or sometimes thousands
of hits and would need further support to categorize the information
in order to be able to browse it efficiently.
- The context of the search was easily lost or became confusing.
A degree of ambiguity was present and there was no mechanism for
disambiguation. For example, a search for "spring" could result
in hits where spring was meant as a season, as a location, as a
proper name or an object.
Both issues are specific to large knowledge environments containing
complex information items.
In the development of new access procedures, the focus of the Integrator
was next limited to the National Inventories, a collection of three
databases: Humanities, Natural Sciences and Archaeological Sites.
Limiting the focus was necessary due to the complexities of dealing
with approximately 25 million information items, in French and in
English, using diverse classification and terminology and, above all,
the connections they entail.
Limiting the focus of the Integrator to a single resource also meant
a step forward in our general research on access redesign. This step
tested the integration concepts and methods on more detailed level.
The challenges now became:
- How to make the National Inventories respond in a meaningful and
enjoyable way to a broad audience of museum professionals, researchers
and interested public, in French and in English, reconciling the
diversity of terminology and classification.
- How to create responses that challenge the user's understanding
of the domain and provide opportunities for reflection and interpretation.
- How to transform the invitation of "Come and Get It" to an intellectual
adventure of "Seek and You Shall Find", where the skills and level
of interest determine the way the system organizes and formats the
- How to use the links and the connections embedded in the retrieved
information to place it into a context or follow a narrative path.
What, When, Who, Where, and How
The Humanities database contains information describing objects, using
generic and/or specific terms to express underlying concepts, intended
to represent distinctions. Defining a concept means proposing a procedure
for explicitly expressing that distinction. The two basic dimensions
of distinctions are stability and generality. 
It was found that the development of an effective access tool to the
Humanities database did not depend primarily on distinctions related
to stability, since the information items are not situations or events.
Distinctions related to generality issues, namely classes and objects,
are the keys for effective access and creative organization of the
retrieved material. The advantage of defining concepts was that semantic
categories could be constructed, assisting the user in the selection
and disambiguation of the results. "Spring" could be grouped under
"location" when signifying a place name and under "time" when signifying
a season, etc.
The choice for concept mapping and categorization strategy considered
interaction, responsiveness, understanding multiple views, the ability
to encourage learning and discovery and even game-like framework issues.
A theoretical challenge, to be considered in the future, is the prototype
theory, where membership is determined by the similarity of the attributes
of an object to the category's prototype. Here, in contrast to the
classical view of categorization, where features are necessary for
deciding what belongs in what category, relationships are determined
by both intuition and logic. For example, in the category of games,
the only thing its members have in common is a vague family resemblance
as leisure pastimes. (Wittegenstein) 
The problem, at this stage, is how to select concepts to form meaningful
categories, which could respond to the diverse usage situations the
access procedure must support.
At this stage, the Concept Search model, developed by the Consortium
for the Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI), was used to define
the basic groupings of answers to the fundamental questions of What,
When, Who, Where, and How, as described and demonstrated in the Cultural
Heritage Information On Line Project .
During the CHIN design sessions, the names of these concepts were
debated and alternatives were proposed. It was decided to proceed
with What, When, Who, Where, and How, in the "Canadian Collections"
phase of the project, as broadly accepted basic concepts.
The Art & Architecture Thesaurus <http://www.gii.getty.edu/vocabulary/aat.html>
The integration of The Art & Architecture Thesaurus
with the Humanities database was one of the most significant improvements
to access and retrieval. The thesaurus, used as a behind-the-scenes
retrieval tool, enables access to objects through hierarchies. This
integration has permitted a conceptual structure, that embeds art
history knowledge, to be applied to the terminology used in the existing
information collections, without the need to modify the resource itself
or to impose vocabulary or category structures on those participating
in the construction of this collective resource. The architecture
enables the potential addition of other authorities and organized
information resources including geographical or temporal perspectives
or offering alternative views for categorization.
To enable access in both French and English, a multilingual thesaurus
was developed using The Art & Architecture Thesaurus as
a base. The most frequently used terms in the Humanities database,
were identified and a French equivalent term was defined. Currently,
there are 2,600 French terms available and active during the retrieval
process. A searcher can enter the term "painting", for example,
and retrieve all the records containing the French equivalent "peinture",
as well as records using the English term. This has significantly
improved full access to the bilingual resource, which contains data
in the language chosen by the contributing institution.
The redesign of access to the resource considered different usage
situations and habits, based on users' comments and requirements.
In defining the access scenarios the following were considered:
- frequency of usage (a first-time visitor or a frequent visitor),
- different usage situations (work, enjoyment, information, incidental
- level of knowledge of the field, understanding of the discipline
- research and learning style (from concept to objects, from objects
to concepts, browsing, selecting)
- usage habits
- interaction style (preference for intelligent agents versus direct
manipulation controlled by the user ).
The access scenarios that have been developed for "Canadian Collections"
are as follows:
- The Single Entry Search Box
- Browsing Access Points
- Concept Search
- Search Using a Form
- Search by Command
- Browsing Authorities: "Need assistance with a term?"
The Single Entry Search Box can work for everyone. It was designed
to bring the user a broad range of material in response to a query.
It is the place where the user can associate any combination of terms
with no restrictions imposed by the system. The system's immediate
response to the Single Entry Search Box command consists of the number
of objects retrieved, grouped according to the five main concepts
of What, When, Who, Where, and How. As stated above, this grouping
categorizes the answer into meaningful sets and renders a greater
degree of clarity to the response. The user can either start browsing
the information objects or, if the results are not satisfying, refine
or rephrase the query.
Browsing Access Points uses pre-defined queries, organized according
to the What, When, Who, Where, and How concepts. These are entry scenarios
developed and displayed by those who are actively involved in the
construction of the information environment. They are intended for
first-time visitors or non-specialists and are meant to be "quick"
access to interesting topics. The queries are not fixed and will be
updated periodically based on user response and usage patterns.
The Concept Search is designed for those who wish to start
their search from one or more of the basic concepts of What, When,
Who, Where, and How. More control is provided for how the search is
performed, how terms are combined, and how results are delivered.
The Search Using a Form opens with a pre-defined query form,
itemizing the most common fields for searching. A search assistant
is also available which provides, for each field, an alphabetic index
of all the available search terms along with the number of times the
term occurs in the resource as a whole. The terms from the index can
be cumulated to the form, reducing spelling errors. This search option
is designated for the more frequent users who can be more specific
in their queries. The responses are not categorized by the What, When,
Who, Where, and How concepts since the number of the hits is expected
to be lower because of the specific and targeted nature of the query.
Search by Command is provided for frequent users who are familiar
with the native command syntax of the underlying software. There has
been considerable pressure from CHIN's original member community to
provide this method which retains the power of the command line search
Browsing by Authorities enables users to perform searches starting
from a term or a concept. The user can search the thesaurus for a
specific term. The information about a term could include detailed
or family information, broader and narrower terms, alternate terms,
scope notes as well as a French equivalent. The hierarchies of the
thesaurus can be browsed by scrolling. When viewing the detailed term
definition the user can launch a query against the information resource,
which returns results categorized by the 5 concepts of What, When,
Who, Where, and How. The user can explore the objects representing
or illustrating the researched concept. The only authority which has
been integrated, at this time, is The Art & Architecture Thesaurus.
Other authorities, enabling the user to select different views into
the information environment and offering a mechanism to collect terms
from different authorities and then launch a combined query, will
be considered in the future.
Refine or Rephrase functions are considered key features
of the interface. As mentioned above, when dealing with large quantities
of information, the user requires a proper tool to enable regrouping
of the information in meaningful and useful ways. The user never has
to go "back" to refine a search. Having this function available encourages
a sense progress rather than failure.
Each of the access scenarios is equipped with a "refine" option.
The Single Entry Search Box can be refined through interaction with
the system, which promptly responds to each new term added, providing
updated figures for the categorized results. Single Entry Search Box,
Concept Search, Browsing Access Points and Browsing Authorities, have
access to a refine option where terms can be added to the 5 concepts
of What, When, Who, Where and How. Each of these concepts can become
even more specific, efficiently reducing the scope of the search.
For example, if the user starts with "Thomson" and gets 5,000 hits
under "Who", the search can be narrowed to artists or manufacturers
or merchants named "Thomson". The user can use the same tool to broaden
the scope of the search.
Providing these various search, retrieval and query refinement options
means that the user is in control. The level of interaction with the
system is determined by the type of query submitted. From children
working on school projects to those performing more sophisticated
research, each can select the level of interaction that is comfortable.
Users who just want to know what is in museum collections can use
the predefined searches and, when comfortable with that, start exploring
the resource on their own. The goal is to provide the user with options
based on interest and expertise.
"Seek and You Shall Find", as a process, enables users to direct
their interaction with a knowledge environment - the "Information
Meta-Center". The goal of the CHIN Intellectual Access project has
been to develop a process which makes this happen and to enable the
user to explore the information resources on their own level based
on interest and expertise. With more frequent use, the level of expertise
and understanding of the knowledge environment will increase, which
will in turn enhance the perceived value of the resource.
The initial goal was to focus on the information needs of the museum
professional, but it was rapidly determined that developing layered
access also opened the application to a much broader audience. From
the very simple search using the Single Entry Search Box or Browsing
by Access Points for the uninitiated, to the Search by Form or Search
by Command for those more intimately familiar with the knowledge environment,
it is anticipated that the spectrum of user perspectives into this
Meta-Center will be satisfied.
Adopting the 5 concepts, which focus on the basic questions posed
by users, was a natural consequence of figuring out how best to synthesize
the volume of information into logical partitions which could be commonly
understood and effectively used. Allowing users to query, as well
as refine their searches on these concepts, was a logical extension.
Users can "seek" out the relevant information and, with assistance
from the conceptual structure, focus and refine the query to "find"
what is applicable to their need.
The use of search assistants, such as subject specific thesauri and
multi-lingual thesauri, also greatly enhances access to the collective
resource. Superimposing a hierarchical vocabulary structure adds interpretive
knowledge to existing terminology in the Information Meta-Center.
The focus up to this stage has been on developing search methodologies
and strategies on single information resources. Our next goal is to
extend these ideas to a group of resources, enabling the user to search
many related resources at one time - a more truly integrated search.
In addition, there is the need to synthesize results according to
the point of view of the user, such as distribution of results on
a time line, or geographically on a map. Enabling the selection of
that point of view gives the user a role on how results are presented
and subsequently used.
We invite your reactions to the progress to date. This resource can
be found at <http:www.chin.gc.ca>.
The authors would like to acknowledge all the creative efforts
and ideas contributed to the project thus far. In the true spirit
of collaboration all CHIN staff have contributed and worked very hard
to redesign access to Canadian museums information. Thank you to all.
CHIN's mission is to: "Broker effective access to Canadian and international
heritage information for public education and enjoyment and for the
collective benefit of Canadian museums."
CHIN does this by working with the heritage community and others to:
1. Promote the creation, management, dissemination, and use of heritage
2. Articulate and promote standards and guidelines which will enable
the creation and exchange of coherent information resources in a distributed
3. Offer integrated access to distributed heritage information;
4. Ensure the development and effective use of technology appropriate
to the specific needs of the community;
5. Represent Canadian museums in the development of national and international
initiatives and programs related to access to heritage information.
More about CHIN: <http://www.chin.gc.ca/About_Chin/e_about.html>
Lyn Elliot Sherwood, CHIN Update, p.1-2, Network News, Issue No. 11,
Winter 1997-1998 <http://www.chin.gc.ca/Whats_New/update/e_update.html>
Peter Russell, The Global Brain: Speculations on the Evolutionary
Leap to Planetary Consciousness (Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.,
Jean-Francios Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge,
Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, trans. (Minneapolis: Univ. of
Minnesota Press, 1984)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, http://biology.semo.edu/web/courses/ui415/teilhard.html
Alexander Chislenko, Automated Collaborative Filtering and Semantic
Transports - (ACF) is an unprecedented technology for distribution
of opinions and ideas in society and facilitating contacts between
people with similar interests. It automates and enhances existing
mechanisms of knowledge distribution and dramatically increases their
speed and efficiency. This allows to optimize knowledge flow in the
society and accelerate the evolution of ideas in practically all subject
areas. ACF also provides a superior tool for information retrieval
systems that facilitates users' navigation in the sea of information
in a meaningful and personalized way. This technology can be viewed
as a semantic transport - a social utility that, after physical and
data transports, transfers increasingly abstract and intelligent objects
between previously isolated fragments of the social organism. <http://www.lucifer.com/~sasha/articles/ACF.html>
Timothy O'Brien, An Object Orientation: A Theatrical
Reexamination of the Man-and-Machine Struggle in the Information Age
Imogen McCormack, < http://www.cs.monash.edu.au/~jonmc/
Miroslaw Rogala < http://www.mcs.net/~rogala/
Victoria Vesna < http://arts.ucsb.edu/~vesna/
Marshall McLuhan: "... the ability to perceive media-induced extensions
of man, once the province of the artist, is now being expanded as
the new environment of electric information makes possible a new degree
of perception and critical awareness by non-artists" which came as
an answer to a question posed to him by a journalist: "Why should
it be the artist rather than the scientist who perceives these relationships
and foresees these trends ?" - From "The Playboy Interview: Marshall
McLuhan,, Playboy Magazine, March 1969. <http://www.mcluhanmedia.com/mmclm001.html>
"Einstein Meets Magritte - An interdisciplinary reflection on science,
nature, human action and society" bringing together scholars and creative
performers who had already - in their own distinctive ways - taken
a path that leads to interdisciplinarity - transdisciplinarity - albeit
in different directions. <http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Conf/EinmagAn.html>
"Beyond Interface: net art and Art on the Net" occurs in conjunction
with Museums and the Web Conference,, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April
22-25, 1998, Steve Dietz, <http://www.walkerart.org/gallery9/>
LEONARDO is an international journal for artists and others interested
in the contemporary arts. It features illustrated articles written
by artists about their own work and is particularly concerned with
issues related to the interaction of the arts, sciences and technology.
CTHEORY is an international journal of theory, technology and culture.
Articles, interviews, and key book reviews in contemporary discourse
are published weekly as well as theorisations of major "event-scenes"
in the mediascape. Edited by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker. <http://www.ctheory.com/?clicktrade=14528>
ISEA, The Inter-Society of the Electronic Arts is an international
organization whose membership and collaborators consists of a wide
range of individuals - artists, educators, scientists - electronic
art institutes and other interested organizations. <http://www.sat.qc.ca/~sat/isea/intersoc/edito.html>
The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology <http://www.fact.co.uk/>
Roy Ascott. Director of the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive
Arts, University of Wales College, Newport for the development of
doctoral research, advanced practice and theory in the field of electronic
arts and digital media with special reference to new forms of communication,
collaboration and production. It is concerned with all aspects of
the post-biological culture. CAiiA is both a physical centre and a
virtual community, providing for Onsite and Online research leading
to University of Wales degrees of MPhil and PhD. <http://caiiamind.nsad.newport.ac.uk/
 Dublin Core Metadata <http://purl.oclc.org/metadata/dublin_core/>:
Instantiation. Element 8. Resource Type Label: "Type"
The category of the resource, such as home page, novel, poem, working
paper, technical report, essay, dictionary. For the sake of interoperability,
Type should be selected from an enumerated list that is currently
under development in the workshop series. On line discussion: <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Metadata/types.html>
Definition of terms "concept and "category" Web Dictionary
of Cybernetics and Systems <http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ASC/INdexASC.html>
Francis Heylighen, Structuring Knowledge in a Network of Concepts;
Alexander Chislenko, Semantic Web vision paper - Version 0.27 - 29
June, 1997 <http://www.lucifer.com/~sasha/articles/SemanticWeb.html>
Paul Resnick, Filtering Information on the Internet, Scientific American,
March 1997. An overview of non-collaborative automated filtering system
George Lakoff: On Conceptual Categories, Paris, October, 1995. <http://www.cis.hut.fi/~tho/paris/paris3.html>;
George Lakoff, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What categories reveal
about the mind, The University of Chicago Press; (C) 1987. <http://lummi.Stanford.EDU/Media2/texts/Lakoff/WomenFire.book/>
Stevan Harnad, E-Prints on Cognitive Psychology <http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/genpub.html>
Jaakko Hintikka, Lingua Universalis vs. Calculus Ratiocinator: An
Ultimate Presupposition of Twentieth-Century Philosophy, ISBN 0-7923-4246-1,
Ludwig Wittgenstein <http://www.ags.uci.edu/~bcarver/ludwig.html>
CIMI - Consortium for the Interchange of Museum Information <http://www.cimi.org/about/mission.html>
Kody Janney & Jane Sledge, User Access Needs for Project CHIO,
Draft, June 28, 1995
CHIO - Cultural Heritage Information On-line <http://www.cimi.org/projects/chio.html>
Network News No. 11, Winter 1997-98, Celebrating CHIN's 25th Anniversary,
CIMI Update <http://www.chin.gc.ca/About_Chin/Network_News/e_news11.html>
CHI 97 Electronic Publications: Panels. Intelligent Software Agents
vs. User-Controlled Direct Manipulation: A Debate. <http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi97/proceedings/panel/jrm.htm>
"The @gency" <http://www.info.unicaen.fr/~serge/sma.html
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