One step closer to connected heritage information

27 mei 2019 Gepubliceerd door

If you are looking for heritage information online, a little technological help will always be welcome. That is why, in the Dutch Digital Heritage Network, we are working on automatically linking heritage information to provide users with as much relevant information as possible in one search. We have recently reached an important milestone: a working prototype of the ‘network of terms’.

What is the problem?

Common terminology sources (thesauri, classification systems, etc.) are the key to connecting heritage information. Until now, collection managers describing their collections have often selected their own terms to describe characteristics of an object (such as its manufacturer, subject, location) or used an existing list of terms. In practice, however, it appears that terms in different lists or used by different collection managers are written or referenced in different ways. This means that works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Rembrant, and Rembrandt van Rhijn are not linked, despite the fact that they were indeed created by the same artist. This hinders users in their search for information.

Easier to find using common terms

The problem can be solved by introducing shared terminology sources for the heritage sector. Additionally, by using an invariable code (a so-called URI) instead of the literal term, searches will become unambiguous and less error-prone. Rembrandt van Rijn, for example, will be identified using this code: (from the National Library’s Dutch Thesaurus of Author’s Names). It also enables the information to be published as Linked Open Data, making it even easier to find for humans and machines.

All this will be made possible by the Network of Terms of the Dutch Digital Heritage Network. It is a kind of ‘terminology hub’: a connecting link between the collection-managing institutions and the suppliers of collection management systems, which will relieve both parties. The institution can connect to the Network of Terms which already includes the shared terminology sources. The supplier also makes a one-off connection to the Network of Terms.

Advanced technology in prototype

Such an application is very advanced, even from an international perspective. In the Usable Digital Heritage work programme of the Dutch Digital Heritage Network, a team of information specialists is working hard on the step-by-step development of this new working method. A large part of the technology was developed during a pilot with CLARIAH in late 2018, in which experts from the KNAW Humanities Cluster, the National Library, Sound and Vision, and the Cultural Heritage Agency participated.

The project team has now created an operational prototype of the Network of Terms. You can use the demonstrator to perform your first real-time search of various terminology sources. This is a significant step towards the desired end result.

More information

The demonstrator is primarily intended to demonstrate the operation of the Network of Terms. Eventually, collection managers will be able to use the Network of Terms directly as part of their collection management systems. During the next stage of this project, we want to get in touch with collection managers to fine-tune the application to their needs.

If you have any questions about the demonstrator or the Network of Terms in general, please contact information architect Sjors de Valk.

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