Title:Finnish Museums on the Semantic Web: The User’s Perspective on MuseumFinland
Authors:Eero Hyv
Publication:MW2004: Museums and the Web 2004

This paper presents the vision of publishing museum collections on the Semantic Web. It is shown how museums with their semantically rich and interrelated content could start creating large, consolidated semantic collection portals together on web. By semantic web techniques, it is possible to make collections semantically interoperable and provide the museum visitors with intelligent, content-based search and browsing services. The idea and its challenges are addressed through a real-world case study and implementation: the prototype of MuseumFinland, a semantic portal for Finnish museums to publish their collections on the Semantic Web. The main goals and features of MuseumFinland are:

  • Global view to distributed collections. It is possible to use the collections of all museums participating in the system as if the collections were in a single uniform repository. In MuseumFinland, data from different collections in Finland is collected into a global repository that is made syntactically and semantically interoperable by a special transformation and annotation system.
  • Uniform view to different kind of collections. It should be possible to merge collections of different kind in the same semantic space. In MuseumFinland, the collections in research focus include cultural artifact collections from different museums, paintings and graphics from art collections, and a database of protected heritage locations and buildings situated in the nature and urban environment.
  • Content-based information retrieval for human usage. Since we are dealing with semantic content, the system should support intelligent information retrieval based on content concepts, not on simple keyword string match as is customary on the WWW. For example, since Helsinki is a part of Finland, the locational keyword "Finland" should match not only "Finland" but also "Helsinki".
  • Semantically linked contents. A most interesting aspect of the collection items to the end-user are the implicit semantic relations relating collection data with their context and to each other. For example, assume that a painting in an art museum depicts a castle and the collection of another museum includes artifacts from there. If the user views the painting, then he could be interested in having a look at the actual artifacts stored in another museum database. In MuseumFinland, the system designer can define the notion of "interesting associations" in terms of generic logical predicates that make use of the underlying ontologies and collection metadata. Based on the predicates, the actual links are generated.
  • Easy local content publication. One of the key drivers behind the success of the WWW is the ease of content publication. Everybody can publish content easily and independently by just maintaining HTML files in a local public directory.

The portal will be demonstrated at the conference.

Research Consortium

The museums participating in the project include the National Board of Antiquities, the Espoo City Museum, the Foundation of the Helsinki University Museum, and the Antivaria Group consisting of some 20 additional Finnish museums. The project team also includes two major multi-national companies, Nokia Corp. and TietoEnator Corp in addition to the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology. The research is mainly funded by the National Technology Agency of Finland (Tekes). Related papers, references, and more info: