It has been consistently proven that transnationally accessible data in various forms greatly enhance the possibility of scientific discoveries
Due to no lack of various past and existing digitisation initiatives, cultural and historical data as well as several (national) biographical databases are universally accessible Europe-wide. However, there are restrictions that prevent the exploitation of the existing data.
The InTaVia project is an orchestrated effort of nine different consortium partners (University for Continuing Education Krems, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Aalto University, University of Southern Denmark, Austrian Academy of Sciences, University of Stuttgart, Fluxguide, University of Helsinki) to address and overcome some of the restrictions imposed on the research and innovation landscape by combining different research and development objectives:
- it endeavours to draw together tangible and intangible assets of European heritage to enable their mutual contextualisation;
- it is developing new means of data creation, curation, and transnational integration;
- it is developing a visual analytics environment to help CH experts to better access, analyse, and visually communicate cultural collections and related biographical and contextual knowledge to the interested public.
The importance of knowing whom (and how) the project outcomes will serve
One of the first and foremost tasks carried out within the ongoing project efforts was to collect information about “exemplary user practices” of CH professionals, to gather knowledge about their needs and requirements. The Results of these workshops will be included in the requirements for the target ontology and the system at large.
Two workshops have been organised in order to get as much feedback as possible regarding the project’s development strategy of user-centred design. The aim was to collect information about “exemplary user practices” and to gather knowledge about the needs and requirements of CH professionals.
Based on the workshop results and participants’ input we developed different model personas of the future InTaVia users to guide and instruct our future designs: the art curator, the tourist guide, the collection manager, the GLAM media designer, the museum education specialist, the historian, the art historian with DH Background, the causal user, the history teacher and the research librarian.
Bringing People Together: The Importance of a Common Data Model
InTaVia aims to bring together data from diverse object and person databases, taking into consideration the requirements of the target (expert and non-expert) user communities as well as the technical demands envisaged at the outset of the project. The aim of this project is to integrate these resources into a knowledge base, which will serve as a basis for text mining, visual analytics, and visual storytelling as well as allow for manual and (semi-)automated enrichment, querying and linking of the data.
The InTaVia data model is the central point of the project efforts; as such, it is critical to the overall success of the InTaVia project. It is based on the analysis of the project partners’ prosopographical databases (currently we are focusing on the Austrian Prosopographical Information System (APIS), the Dutch BiographyNet, the Slovenian Slovenska Biografija portal (SBI) and the Finnish BiographySampo) and the Europeana as a starting point for object databases. The overall objectives of the project are therefore to establish a common data model integrating a number of heterogeneous datasets into a harmonised knowledge base. The common data model will be capable of expressing all relevant information present in the source datasets, provide the data in formats that fit the needs of the technological solutions envisaged at the outset of the project and follow general best practices and standards to improve the reusability and interoperability.
Mine it … analyse it … visualise it … tell the story!
A pivotal goal of the InTaVia project is to provide a dynamic text mining environment for analysing biographical and other historiographical texts written in English, German, Dutch, Slovene and Finnish. We envision a setup that is easy to use for experts, where they can upload their data, apply existing models, verify the models’ output and integrate their expert knowledge to improve this outcome.
Several objectives have been put forth at the outset of the project to harmonise the output of text mining tools for analysing existing biographical data from various databases: in the present work stage, the focus of text mining lies in the identification of Names, Locations, Events and Time Expressions in cultural heritage texts for Dutch, English, Finnish, German and Slovene. Our aim is to use NLP tools to automatically extract structured information from raw texts.
To make the growing amounts of cultural (object and biography) data more accessible, one major research aim of InTaVia is dedicated to the development of visual representations. One of the main purposes of the project is therefore to “design visualisations to provide multiple views on object data, biographical data, object-oriented biography data and object-oriented composite data (i.e. groups, organisations, geo-entities) over time.” Visualisations offer effective means to make complex cultural information visible and explorable on various scales, in various selections, for different historical entities and from various perspectives. For that matter, multiple methods to visually analyse object or biography data will be of relevance, putting emphasis either on temporal, geographical, relational, categorical, or statistical data dimensions. A robust selection and combination of such views is underway: we started to implement basic visualisations, including timelines, maps, and network views.
Storytelling matters! Applied to the InTaVia project, visualisation-based stories revolve around cultural actors, cultural objects, and their interconnection in the hybrid constellations of cultural history. To create narratives (or stories) about historical sequences of events from cultural history, we will make use of a visualisation-based storytelling approach that includes data visualisations, rich media elements (audio, video, image), and text and caters, from a cognition and communication perspective, to human information processing.