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Digital semantic model

The Museo del Prado’s Ontological Model

A domain ontology (or domain-specific ontology) represents concepts that belong to a specific part of the world. It can thus be said to manage highly specialized knowledge. The ontological aspirations of science and information technologies tend to close and control vocabularies as much as possible so that the specific meaning of a term belonging to a given domain can be furnished by its ontology in a precise manner, with no ambiguity at all. The main ontology or specific vocabulary used in this project has been the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM). As can be seen on its web page, this model provides the descriptions and formal structure needed to describe explicit and implicit concepts and their relations in the domain of cultural heritage documentation. In practice, and with the necessary adjustments, this makes it possible to adequately represent most of the Museo del Prado’s central processes.

As we pointed out, domain ontologies represent the concepts within their scope in very specific, bounded and closed ways. However, overall reality shows a notable tendency towards continuity, and the domains in which the world is organized are generally less pure and more mixed than our controlled vocabularies. Therefore, world systems such as a museum need hybrid ontologies based on the mixture and inclusion of different domain ontologies to generate a more general representation. The ontological project developed by the Museo del Prado for the construction of its knowledge graph hybridizes a broad group of ontology domains, integrating them into a shared framework or ontological narrative that represents the overall group of activities taking place in the museum setting, that is, the group of techniques, practices and processes involved in a museum’s functions. These span a gamut from documentation associated with processes needed to preserve the collection to communication with the media and information about the Museum’s activities and publications, along with online sales of objects from the Prado’s shop. In the following section, we will explain the group of hybridized vocabularies employed in the Museo del Prado’s digital platform. The museum’s ontological model is used not only to generate a reusable dataset, but also to resolve the group of operations and queries that different groups of users may seek to carry out on the knowledge thus represented.

The Museo del Prado’s Digital Semantic Model

The hybrid ontology mentioned above has taken the form of what we could call the Museo del Prado’s Digital Semantic Model, which consists of a group of vocabularies articulated around the CIDOC-CRM this was developed to represent most of the museum’s central processes, although not all of them, as we will see. The following diagram represents the Museo del Prado’s Digital Semantic Model and shows the group of ontologies that combine to form the museum’s ontological narrative.

Museo del Prado's Digital Semantic Model

The CIDOC CRM is a semantic model that has been evolving since 1994 and was developed by the Documentary Normalization Group of the International Committee for Documentation that pertains to the International Council of Museums (ICOM-CIDOC). In 2006, the ISO published the CIDOC CRM as an international norm (ISO 21127:2006).

It consists of a semantic model that constitutes an “ontology” of information related to cultural heritage. The CIDOC model consists of a hierarchy of some 90 classes and close to 150 properties that meaningfully connect those classes.

The main entities of the Prado’s semantic web—Artwork, Author, Exhibition and Activity—are represented according to that CIDOC CRM standard. However, the museum’s web also handles other types of contents neither foreseen nor addressed by the CIDOC model. It has therefore been necessary to hybridize that standard with the FRBR model and other vocabularies (standard ontologies) widely used in semantic-web projects.

The FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) is a conceptual model developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Its purpose is to establish a framework that provides a clear, precisely defined and shared understanding of the information that a bibliographic record should offer, and most of all, what can be expected of a bibliographic record in response to user needs. The FRBR standard has been used to model all of the Museum’s bibliographic records.

Besides these two main vocabularies, the project has also had to adopt other standard vocabularies and ontologies to control objects of knowledge not addressed by the previous ones, such as the rNnews ontology develop by IPTC (the International Press Telecommunications Council) as a means of representing news the PPROC ontology that defines concepts needed to describe public bidding processes and contracts in the public sector the Human Resources Management Ontology that sets the standard for offering employment and scholarships and the W3C’s SIOC (Semantically Interlinked Online Communities) to represent content published in social spaces.

The Prado’s digital model is organized, at the upper level, around the following 18 Objects of Knowledge:

To insure greater control of the vocabulary employed in object descriptions, a specific OWL ontology has been applied to the Museo del Prado’s semantic project and to each of the mentioned objects.

All of the contents of this new web are represented and published according to W3C semantic-web standards according to the principles promoted by the Linking Open Data Project in order to promote and facilitate the publication and linking of data on the web. As we have already pointed out, these semantic metadata generate a unified knowledge graph that is exploited, first but not solely, on the web itself via query and recommendation systems, offering users an improved, user-friendly experience.