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The Museo del Prado is now at the forefront of museums on the web with a site that completely transforms the experience of its digital version Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Museo del Prado today presented its new website, characterised by complex technology and a design in which high quality images of the works of art are the principal attraction. This new manner of presenting the Prado within a digital context will offer users an enjoyable means of appreciating all aspects of the Museum and of learning more about its different areas of knowledge in a rapid and intuitive manner.

This initiative, which has been made possible through sponsorship by Telefónica, represents a firm commitment to translating the experience of a visit to the Museum into an enriched digital context based on a semantic model only successfully deployed until now by a very small number of institutions within the cultural sector.

The Museo del Prado is now at the forefront of museums on the web with a site that completely transforms the experience of its digital version

Miguel Falomir, Museo del Prado, José María Sanz-Magallón, Telefónica, Miguel Zugaza, Museo del Prado, Carlos López Blanco, Telefónica, Javier Pantoja Ferrari, Museo del Prado and Javier Docampo, Museo del Prado.

The Museo del Prado today presented its new website, which replaces the one launched in October 2007 (again with the support of Telefónica). This new website aims to improve the online experience of the Museum through a new, module-based structure that allows for connections to be made between the more than 10,000 works of art and more than 1,800 artists in its collection and other elements within its knowledge store (more than 20,000 accesses to lectures, activities, exhibitions, documents, archives and more) in order to achieve greater identification with users and involve them more closely (see image 1. Description of a work).

Today’s presentation, which was streamed live on the website itself, included introductory talks by Miguel Zugaza, director of the Museo del Prado, and Carlos López Blanco, director general of Public Affairs and Regulation at Telefónica. Technical explanations were provided by Javier Pantoja, head of the Museum’s Department of Digital Design, and by Javier Docampo, head of the Prado’s Library, Archive and Documentation Department.

This new website represents the first use of a Knowledge Graph developed by the Prado through the combination of the principles of the semantic web and the Museum’s own body of content. This new treatment of data, which are structured semantically, has allowed for the development of one of the project’s most important features: its faceted browser (See image 2: Faceted browser). Thanks to this new and powerful browser, users of the Museum’s website can for the first time access all the information contained in it by applying personal patterns and sequences of reasoning and searching. In addition, the content recommendation systems, which are also the result of this type of data structuring, will facilitate a more in-depth use of the information requested through a complete labelling of the works and artists that make up the Prado’s collections.

Conceived as one of the Museum’s priority projects within its Bi-annual Action Plan, the Prado’s new website aims to offer digital visitors an optimum experience, incorporating for the first time the possibility of creating and saving personalised tours as well as favourite works and other search results through the design of a specific social media section called “My Prado” (see image 3. My Prado). This channel will house “A Journey through the Senses”, comprising ten thematic routes through works in the Permanent Collection accompanied by a selection of music chosen by professionals from Spain’s Radio 3.

From a visual viewpoint (see image 4. Home), the site uses a language created to reflect the Museum’s corporate image, adaptable to all the different devices currently in existence, with a design that defines the site’s principal axes: the work of art as starting point, the collection as the principal means of access to browsing, the contextualisation of the information offered and the creation of an internal social network that has functions essential to achieving greater identification with users and involving them more closely in this new digital experience of the Museum.

Coinciding with the site’s launch and in order to introduce personal visitors to the Museum to the option of using this new and complete tool for obtaining greater knowledge and enjoyment of its collections and activities, the Prado has installed five permanent consultation points which offer access to its site through screens provided by Samsung as a Technological Collaborator of the Museum. These consultation points are located at the Botanical Gardens entrance, the lobby of the Jerónimos Building, the entry to the Room of the Muses and - in the Villanueva Building - the Upper Goya Rotunda and the South Ionic Gallery on the first floor.

The structure of the new website

The new website is structured into six blocks of content:

The Collection

This section presents the Museum’s collection, inviting users to undertake a tour of the Prado’s different collections guided by the chief curators of each department through videos, images and explanatory texts.

It also includes a faceted browser encompassing around 10,000 works in the Museum’s collection, through which users can undertake combined and summarised searches on the works’ technical and iconographical aspects.

The description of each work functions as the centre of this channel, combining a navigable image, explanatory text, detailed technical description, related multimedia resources (videos, audioguides, audios), text on the artist, and more.  

A Visit to the Museum

This channel provides practical information in 13 languages for a personal visit to the Museum: online ticket purchasing, suggestions for activities and routes around the Prado, essential information for a visit, how to become a Friend of the Prado, etc.

News

All the Museum’s daily activities are currently available both online and onsite, including social networks, videos, educational activities, exhibitions, news and guided tours. The ultimate aim of this channel is to bring all this dynamic activity to every user, depending on his or her particular interests. The information is classified by type but is also accessible via a calendar-based search. 

Learning

This channel includes complete information and activities for users wishing to learn and train. This aim is achieved in a modular manner, organising the information in relation to the type of user. The Education section has activities for all sectors of the public, teacher training, conferences etc. The Escuela del Prado section includes content and activities focused on users interested in museological and art-historical content. The Library, Archive and Documentation section offers consultation resources. Research encompasses the Museum’s restoration projects and the technical studies undertaken on its collections and finally, there is access to the Museum’s Library and to its Bulletin

The Museum

This section offers detailed information on the Museum itself, its holdings, history and architecture as well as data on its management and running, in conformance with the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information.

My Prado

My Prado offers users a special type of access to the Museum’s collections and its works. This channel offers the option to create personalised tours, add comments, share them, save favourites, and more. It is set up in a sufficiently open manner to allow users to decide  on the use to be made of it: recording past visits, sharing works with friends, preparing classes etc. 

The Museo del Prado on the web: the Museo del Prado’s Knowledge Graph

Semantic standards and linked data

The Museo del Prado’s Knowledge Graph has been constructed using semantic web criteria following the principles of the Linked Data Web. This has allowed for:

  • Connecting the construction of the Museo del Prado’s extensive knowledge base generated over time by the ongoing work of its curators and scientific staff to the publication of the Prado’s digital space on the web, with the result that what is seen on the web is what is created by the institution as a whole in its different areas of knowledge.
  • Optimising the use of this knowledge base and emphasising the importance of the work of the institution’s different departments. 
  • Converting the Museo del Prado’s current Web of Documents into a Knowledge Graph that is expressed as a Linked Data Web.
  • Developing different modes of using and visualising this Knowledge Graph, adapted to different sectors of the public. In addition, these modes are aimed at satisfying users’ interests to the maximum extent possible, offering data specifically related to the results that answer their queries. 
  • Constructing thematic web pages using a body of data or a sub-graph that fulfils certain requirements (Dynamic Semantic Publishing). 

 

The Museum’s Knowledge Graph

Expressed in a simple, applied manner, the Museo del Prado’s knowledge graph is a representational system of the Museum’s entire content and digital resources that understands facts related to the artists, the works of art, their contents, subjects, periods and styles and any subject related to them. In particular, it understands the way in which this set of elements is connected.

Aside from its public use, the Prado’s knowledge graph is used to comment on, organise and present the Museum’s information in a notably relevant way, for example grouping together in one description of a work of art all the relevant information related to it, whatever the origin of that information or the device that has generated it, in addition to its connection with other works in the Museum or between the artist and other artists represented in the collection.

The Museum’s knowledge graph is a knowledge base developed by the Prado in order to expand its identity on the web through a digital project that reinforces the experiences of virtual visitors to the Museum through a search engine that offers results which are recovered and semantically linked from a wide range of sources distributed across all the Museum’s different departments and activities. 

This search engine provides structured and detailed information on a specific artist, work or subject, in addition to contextual information on each of them. The aim is thus for users to be able to access and use this information themselves with the confidence that everything housed in the Museo del Prado in relation to their query is available to them.

The ultimate aim is to link up the Prado’s knowledge graph with open, semantically structured data available on the Linked Open Data Web, as well as that available on Wikipedia through DBpedia and Wikidata, Freebase, Europeana, the BBC, the New York Times and on the sites of institutions such as the British Museum and the Getty Foundation, just to name a few examples.

The Museo del Prado is launching this service in order to provide users with rigorous, relevant answers to their queries and with a method of requesting information that allows them to navigate via significant connections across all the objects in the Museum’s collection and across its museological project as a whole. 

The Prado’s knowledge graph features more than 310,000 elements and more than 2.8 million connections between these different objects and elements, which are used to understand the meaning of the term introduced by the user when searching, as well as to offer users a system for exploring both the collection and the Museum’s resources in general, based on faceted browsing that allows for all possible types of navigation across these elements.

Graph constructed using the CIDOC-CRM model

The Museo del Prado’s digital semantic model is a group of hybrid ontologies articulated around the CIDOC-CRM reference model, which was developed to represent almost all of the Museum’s key processes. The diagram below represents the Prado’s Digital Model, showing the group of hybrid ontologies, which are explained here.

Firstly, the CIDOC-CRM model is a semantic model devised from 1994 onwards by the International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC) of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). In 2006 the ISO published the CIDOC-CRM as the international norm (ISO 21127:2006).

This is a semantic model comprising an “ontology” of information relating to cultural heritage, representing a formalisation of the relationships that unite the key concepts of this type of information. The CIDOC model consists of a hierarchy of more than 90 classes and around 150 characteristics that significantly connect these classes.

The principal elements of the Prado’s semantic web, namely Work of art, Artist, Exhibition and Activity, are represented according to the above-mentioned CIDOC-CRM standard, however the Museum’s web also incorporates numerous other types of content not contemplated by that model, for which reason that standard has been hybridised with the EFBR model and other vocabularies (standard ontologies) that are widely used in semantic web projects.

The FRBR model (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) is a conceptual model devised by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) with the aim of establishing a framework that enables a clear, precisely defined and universally accessible comprehension of the information that a bibliographic holding should provide and of the type that should be obtained from a bibliographical resource in response to users’ needs. The FRBR standard has been used to devise all the Museum’s bibliographical references.

Notable among the standard vocabularies and ontologies in the present case are: the rNews ontology devised by the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council), a group that includes all the main news agencies and communication companies, in order to present the Museum’s news; the PPROC ontology, which defines concepts required for describing the procedures for offering tenders and contracts in the public sector; the ontological standard Human Resources Management Ontology for advertising jobs and work experience; and the SIOC standard (Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities) of the W3C for representing content published on social spaces.

In order to better control the vocabulary employed for the description of the works of art, use has been made of an OWL ontology specific to the Museo del Prado’s semantic project and to each of the objects referred to.

All the contents of this new website are represented and published according to the W3C standards for the semantic web and as promoted by the Linking Open Data Project to encourage the publication and linking of data on the web. These semantic metadata generate a unified knowledge graph that is, in the first instance, made use of on the website itself through systems of querying and recommendation, offering users an improved experience. 

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