Search   |   Back Issues   |   Author Index   |   Title Index   |   Contents

Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
November/December 2008

Volume 14 Number 11/12

ISSN 1082-9873

Information Access to Cultural Heritage Workshop Report

ECDL 2008, Aarhus Denmark, 18 September 2008


Martha Larson
University of Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Kate Fernie
United Kingdom

Johan Oomen
Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision
The Netherlands

Juan Manuel Cigarran Recuero

Red Line


The workshop on Information Access to Cultural Heritage (IACH 2008) was held during the ECDL conference in Aarhus, Denmark on the 18th September 2008 [1] [2]. The principal organisers were Martha Larson (University of Amsterdam), Johan Oomen (Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision), Juan Cigarran (UNED) and Kate Fernie (consultant, UK), and the workshop was sponsored by the MultiMatch project (funded through the EC's IST 6th Framework programme) [3]. The aim of the workshop was to bring together cultural heritage practitioners and academics carrying out research in the field. The workshop was attended by about 45 participants from Europe, the USA, Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand.

The programme featured reports on the state-of-the-art with Europeana infrastructure and content aggregation, the development of a range of cultural heritage exhibitions and tools for supporting access to multimedia formats with some novel research results, research-in-progress poster presentations and demonstrations. It concluded with a panel discussion on future trends.

Following the welcome, the workshop keynote was given by digital futures strategist Chris Batt. He challenged the audience to think of uses of technology to make sense of the landscape for users, shifting focus of information access to cultural heritage from search to find.

Stefan Gradmann (Humboldt University) gave a detailed description of work-in-progress to build the first prototype of Europeana, which will provide a single-access point to 6 million digital objects from libraries, museums and archives across Europe. He described the infrastructure, aggregation of metadata, future plans to add functionality and the semantic resources that will be needed.

Rob Davies (MDR Partners) described the EuropeanaLocal project, funded by the eContentPlus programme, which will be aggregating digital content from local and regional cultural institutions into Europeana via regional repositories.

A case study of semantic work based on Tate Online was reported on by Paul Clough (University of Sheffield). He described user evaluation studies, the design of search facets in the prototype interface and work to extend the Getty's Union List of Artist's Names (ULAN) with details of additional artists identified through the Tate's collections.

Paolo Paolini (Politecnico di Milano) went on to talk about the concept of 'Instant Multimedia' and the rapid development of websites to accompany museum exhibitions based on the case study of the 'Enigma Helvetica' exhibition. He reported on a methodology for the rapid development and delivery of multimedia presentations now being used by curators and school groups.

Kate Byrne (University of Edinburgh) talked about 'Having Triplets', her research project into the conversion of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland's database to RDF (Resource Description Framework). She reported that use of automated conversion tools produced an astonishing 235 million triples, while manual simplification of the graph, based on schema knowledge and avoidance of literals, reduced the number of triples by tenfold.

Christa Womser-Hacker (University of Hildesheim) reported on the MARIMBRO System, which provides access to the Music of Man archive at the University of Hildesheim and Hanover University of Music and Drama. She described the various specialist classification schemes for this material, which have been integrated in the MARIMBRO system to offer multi-facetted ontologies and allow for switching between facets.

The final oral paper was given by Roeland Ordelman (University of Twente), who described research into techniques aiming to support the affordable disclosure of spoken word archives. He described the difficulties of working with real-world data based on case studies of radio interviews with the Queen of the Netherlands made during the Second World War and interviews with Dutch survivors of the Second World War camp at Buchenwald. Current research is focussing on understanding the errors and tuning speech recognition systems to improve results.

Following "poster boasters", workshop participants had the opportunity to speak to the presenters during the poster session. The posters covered a wide range of topics relating to cultural heritage information access including, for example, research on marking up cultural materials to support retrieval based on time and geography presented by Fred Gey (University of California Berkeley). The MultiMatch project presented some of its research into the impact of speech recognition errors on search behaviour. Marco de Neit (Digital Heritage Netherlands) presented a poster that called for the establishment of a European standards registry for the digital heritage.

The workshop concluded with a panel session, which had four discussants: Marco de Niet (Digital Heritage Netherlands), Joyce Ray (Institute of Museum and Library Services, USA), Richard Wright (BBC Archives, UK) and Maarten de Rijke (University of Amsterdam). The session opened with the question: 'Which technologies have been important for information access to the cultural heritage and which will continue to be important?' In their responses de Niet and Ray focussed on user issues and de Rijke and Wright on the technologies and the importance of making catalogues available. A lively discussion followed with the panel discussing whether there are technologies that actually hinder access to the cultural heritage and issues relating to rights management, 'information overload', user generated content, open source software and open standards, interoperability, trust, authoritativeness and quality. The session concluded with a call for the audience and cultural heritage institutions to face the technical challenges head-on and to 'go out there and prepare for public access'.

The IACH 2008 workshop proved to be very successful in bringing together practitioners and academic researchers to discuss new research and new developments in information access for the cultural heritage. There was real breadth in the research topics and the specialized technologies being reported on in the field. We concluded that the workshop offered a valuable opportunity to exchange knowledge and build a foundation for future research and development in the area of information access to cultural heritage.


[1] IACH 2008, programme and proceedings: <>. Accessed 11-11-2008.

[2] Larson, M., K. Fernie, J. Oomen and J. Cigarran (eds.), Proceedings of the ECDL 2008 Workshop on Information Access to Cultural Heritage, Aarhus, Denmark, September 18, 2008, ISBN 978-90-813489-1-1.

[3] MultiMatch: <>. Accessed 11-11-08.

Copyright © 2008 Martha Larson, Kate Fernie, Johan Oomen, and Juan Manuel Cigarran Recuero

Top | Contents
Search | Author Index | Title Index | Back Issues
Previous Conference Report | Next Conference Report
Home | E-mail the Editor


D-Lib Magazine Access Terms and Conditions