Tallinn conference report, page five

Day two of the conference saw Mariann Raisma, Assistant Director of development, Estonian History Museum, in session one ask what sort of language should museums be using when communicating with their users? Surely to improve communications is the key to survival?

She made an interesting point – “Universal truth has been replaced with universal accessibility.” There are 200 museums in Estonia, using the internet as a tool: a documentation tool, an exhibition space, an information medium. She showed the Estonian museums online project, an information centre for the countries’ museums. Also seen were MuIS – online database, building a museum online, which was all about information, interpretation and inspiration.

Anton Parn, Estonian Ministry of Culture, told us the background to the growth of European networks linking digital culture, as well the other facets of culture online, including some of the background thinking behind projects. Anton also explained the Estonian approach to EDL and the Michael project

Kate Fernie (MLA, UK) introduced the background to Michael in UK, plus her take on the Minerva guidelines. She showed us some great UK projects, including Jodi Award winner Imagine, from Tyne and Wear Museums. Kate also introduced Calimera network results – across the EU, a whole load of gains for sector professionals. Kate also outlined the real picture at web level for users of Michael, especially for users in their own language.

It’s always interesting when researchers from outside our usual cultural/heritage space give us their views – sometimes people come up with different approaches to the conundrums we have been toiling at for some time. Daniel Olmedilla, from the L3 research centre in Hannover, Germany, opened out some interesting questions about the sw and interoperability from the point of view of the wider digital sectors.

Jacco van Ossenbruggen (senior researcher with the Semantic Media Interfaces group at the Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam) then excited the auditorium with his presentation, which was called “letting data out of the box.” We’re about making data open and accessible, he explained. If users can cross search, the collections become more valuable, he went on. Most ontologies are based on SKOS and W3C is now ratifying this with extensions to accommodate this. Multilingual projects can be done through SKOS, he offered, which would be of real interest in a European cultural context.

Jacco outlined the big key steps that he sees will get us nearer to semantic nirvana: semantic annotation, semantic search, disambiguation – key to semantic search, and finally vocabulary alignment, might bring gains quickly. He explored what he termed ‘the myth of a unified vocabulary,’ talked about the AML (Abstract Mapping Language) route; multiple vocabs, multiple languages, learning alignments and the path from metadata to semantic metadata. Thesaurus (schema mapping) leads to meta data schema mapping, which leads to meta data mapping and thence thesaurus alignment.

He thinks the semantic web is ready to deploy. Web 2.0 fits well in the scheme of things, because it involves community experts. Social barriers have to be overcome – the social web’s open door policy and the involvement of the public confronts professionals with issues of ‘quality.’

Jacco encouraged us: mashups with your material? Good! They mean new audiences, accessibility for all. Some caveats for museums, though – beware of flash for obvious reasons of accessibility. “Make sure you can connect to others and other can connect to you – don’t buy cms software that doesn’t support standard open API. Export to common facilities – (xml etc).” Then he demonstrated some great trial searches, using the CWI’s recently developed demonstrator project – http://e-culture.multimedian.nl/

Toby Burrows showed the ARC network for early European research. It’s about international linkages, research groups, skills training, research workshops and allows access to a range of repositories. “We are trying to change the way people work together, collaborating online.” Part of the project is PioNEER – not just one university – but all the universities in Western Australia. Many, many papers are now online and it’s about avoiding duplication, and allows sharing of digital objects.

Those links again







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