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Museums and the Web

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Automatic Metadata Enrichment and Linking for Event-driven Access to Distributed Collections


Most digitised and online available objects from GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) can be browsed through a predefined set of formal metadata, such as its creator, year of creation, and type of material. Standards for metadata management and exchange have matured and are being adopted widely. They enable intra-collection search and exploration, and are also main drivers behind supporting domain and cross-boundary access to collections.

However, these formal metadata often do not give access to information pertaining to the content of the object, such as its topic, or what is depicted. This information is often given through textual descriptions which are mostly only accessible through keyword search. Keyword search is limited in the sense that it does not facilitate sorting, or retrieving objects whose descriptions contain terms that are synonymous to the search term.

This paper provides results of an interdisciplinary research project, Agora, that is taking collection access one step further by enabling users to search and browse museum collections through the content descriptions of objects in a structured way. The three-year Agora project is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and brings together computer scientists, cultural heritage experts, and humanities researchers.

We present advances in collection access through automatic data enrichment and linking to thesauri and external resources using a combination of state of the art information extraction and semantic web technology. In this work, we show results on enrichment, linking and integration of two collections, namely those of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NISV) and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (RMA). Our first contribution to the state of the art in collection access enables users to browse and search descriptive metadata elements in a structured manner; our focus here is on automatically linking objects to historical events, thus providing users of the collection with objects in context. The figure shows a screenshot of an object from the NISV collection, along with its automatically enriched description field. The entities and events that are identified in the description field, are linked to instances in the event thesaurus. The instances in the event thesaurus are multifaceted objects that are modelled through an event model, providing the historical context to an object.

This new dimension that is added to the collection information has profound implications regarding visualisation; a list or facet view does not do justice to the richness events provide. Our second contribution is a presentation method of enriched collection objects through an interface that is based on the same event model that also underlies the event thesaurus. This interface explicitly shows the event links that connect collection objects and support user interactions that are subsequently used to enrich the knowledge of the collections.

The first evaluations of our approach indicate that event-driven collection access offers users a more meaningful and richer experience. As information extraction and semantic web technologies are advancing at a rapid pace, we foresee that event-driven access as proposed by Agora will be adopted widely in the cultural heritage domain in the near future.


Paper - in formal session


MvanErp's picture
Marieke van Erp is a postdoctoral researcher at the VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her research interests include information extraction and knowledge representation with a particular focus on improving access to cultural heritage collections She holds a Ph.D. from Tilburg University,...
JohanOomen's picture
Drs. Johan Oomen is head of the R&D Department of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and researcher at the Web and Media group of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is mainly working on externally funded research projects that focus on providing online access to digital heritage....
RoxaneSegers's picture
Roxane Segers is a PhD student at the Computer Science department of the VU University, the Netherlands. Within her research, she focuses on extracting and modeling historic information from textual sources in the context of enriching meta-data of cultural heritage collections.
chiel van den akker's picture
I got my PhD in philosophy from the Radboud University Nijmegen in 2009. Currently I am a postdoctoral researcher at the VU Amsterdam. My research focusses on the changing concept of history and heritage in the digital age. I am a member of the interdisciplinary Agora research team at the VU.
laroyo's picture
Lora Aroyo is an assistant professor in Intelligent Information Systems at the Web and Media group, Department of Computer Science Free, at VU University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She is a scientific coordinator of the EU Integrated Project NoTube on integration of Web and TV data with the...
g.jacobs's picture
I studied Art History in Utrecht and in Florence. In 2007 I started the registration and digitization project "Print Room Online" in the Rijksmuseum. This project was an excellent playground for developing and experimenting with new ideas and tools. Together with the Amsterdam Universities we...
s.legene's picture
As professor of Political history I am interested in cultural sources for the analysis of political processes, like museumobjects and institutions, monuments, etc. My research focus is on processes of nation and state formation in the context of colonialism and decolonisation. My expertise on in...
lourens's picture
For the past 5 years I have been working for projects in the Cultural Heritage Domain. I am currently involved in the AGORA project, a cooperation between museums and the Free University of Amsterdam.
jrvosse's picture
gschreiber's picture

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