Advanced Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History

The Department of Art History of the University of Geneva and the Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI) of the University of Zurich have successfully implemented the project National Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History, starting 2018. The goal of the project was to make the department of Art History of the University of Geneva’s unique collection of historic photographs accessible to all Swiss Art History departments, by creating a national, multilingual network for the management, research, and retrieval of digitized historic photographs, slides, and other visual artefacts (along with the Institute of Art History at University of Zurich’s collection, amongst others).

As part of this initial project, a multilingual research environment for scholarly data curation has been implemented and made available to the University of Geneva. Next, a representative number of digital reproductions of the University of Geneva's historic photographic collection has been loaded and the related metadata then have been extracted, loaded, and curated using the tools developed within the project. The results are currently undergoing editorial verification and will be published to the scholarly community by the end of the project (8/2019).

In view of the next generation of this network and in close cooperation with the international Consortium for Open Research Data in the Humanities (CORDh), the University of Zurich’s SARI developed and published a standardised, peer-reviewed Reference Data Model for the semantic representation of all key entities that are required for describing visual artefacts, such as historic slides and photographs. Being entirely based on scholarly acknowledged, yet extendable standards for conceptual modelling in the cultural heritage domain (such as CIDOC-CRM) and the current de-facto standards for storage, access, and exchange of semantic data (such as OWL, RDF, RDF-S), the implementation of the new Reference Data Model significantly improves the visibility of the collection data in question and guarantees better re-usability for research, by providing standardised, machine-processable access across the world-wide Semantic Web. Thus, the content becomes interoperable and re-usable with comparable data from internationally leading actors, such as the PHAROS Consortium, the British Museum, and the Yale Center for British Art. However, this approach not only fosters visibility of the project and it’s collection data, but also significantly raised the potential for funding in the context of further research projects (see below).

This proposal aims at transforming the existing Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History to become fully interoperable with the world-wide Semantic Web, allowing for both human-interpretable and machine-processable data access, exchange, and re-use (based on Linked Open Data technology). This requires further development, full implementation, and publication  of an extended Semantic Reference Data Model,  tailored to the specific needs of the Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History. It also includes the development, implementation and publication of dedicated, multilingual Reference Entity Vocabularies for historic terms, places, persons and institutions, and alike, that will guarantee both machine-processability and -reusability within the data across the semantic web.

Participants Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen, University of Zurich Prof. Dr. Frédéric Elsig, University of Geneva Thomas Hänsli, University of Zurich