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The Museo del Prado is once again at the forefront of museums online in its application of Artificial Intelligence to its collections Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Thanks to sponsorship by Telefónica, the Museo del Prado is offering an expanded reading resource that adds historical context to the works and artists present in its collection from the 12th to the 19th centuries, thus enriching the Museum’s knowledge graph with other online sources such as Wikidata and Wikipedia.

The works and artists in the Museum will also be shown in the form of a multi-layered Timeline that can be personalised by users and which includes, for example, events taking place at the time Velázquez was painting Las Meninas, philosophers and scientists who were contemporaries of Goya or the wars that took place during Rubens’s lifetime.

The Museo del Prado is once again at the forefront of museums online in its application of Artificial Intelligence to its collections

Eduardo Navarro, Director General de Comunicación, Marca, Asuntos Públicos y Sostenibilidad de Telefónica; Javier Pantoja, Jefe de Área de Desarrollo Digital del Museo Nacional del Prado; Javier Solana, Presidente del Real Patronato del Museo Nacional del Prado, y Miguel Falomir, Director del Museo Nacional del Prado. Foto © Museo Nacional del Prado

Thanks to sponsorship by Telefónica, the Museo del Prado is once again located at the forefront of museums online in the application of Artificial Intelligence in order to offer more information and more background to the artists and works in its collections. In 2015 The Prado online project resulted in the launch of the Museum’s current semantic website, which was recognised in the form of awards such as two Webby prizes for the best website of a cultural institution. The Museum has now moved on to the second phase of its digital project, which focuses on achieving maximum comprehension of its works and artists through setting them in the historical, political, philosophical, artistic and scientific context in which they were created.

This new resource firstly offers an expanded reading of the explanatory texts, comprising 5,500 entries on individual works in their Spanish version and almost 2,700 in their English version. This expanded reading has been produced using an NLU motor which recognises and clarifies elements in texts. Using this Artificial Intelligence it is possible to extract the principal concepts and subjects covered in the entries on each work. The Gnoss-Sherlock motor used for this purpose includes a knowledge base derived from Wikipedia and, in this case, on the information present on the Museum’s own website, which is already structured through its Knowledge Graph and which provides additional material for ensuring accuracy.

Much of the information required for understanding a work of art lies in a description of it that frequently requires an unusual level of knowledge on the part of the non-expert reader today. The Prado’s expanded reading thus offers the background that facilitates an understanding of the descriptions of the works and thus of the works themselves in an automatic manner but with all the necessary supervision and guarantees of accuracy. It offers today’s readers an explanatory context for the texts which describe the work, thus helping to ensure that they are informative and oriented towards learning.

In addition, and further emphasising this project’s educational and explanatory focus, a multi-layered Timeline has been created that contextualises and expands the Museum’s collections. This Timeline is enriched by the Prado’s Knowledge graph and through structured information from other online sources, specifically Wikidata and Wikipedia, with the aim of providing context for the works and artists in the Museum, from the 12th to the 19th centuries. This background includes historical events, monarchs, governors and leading political figures as well as the artistic, scientific and philosophical output of the relevant period. The configuration of the Timeline allows the user to select up to 5 different layers, one of which always will be that of the Prado, and to decide what types of elements are to appear in each of them: works, rulers, military conflicts, writers, architects, philosophers, etc, as well as the order of the layers, with the Museo del Prado’s always functioning as the base and reference layer. The total number of elements in the Timeline is approximately 50,000, providing a suitably broad and extensive context for the Prado’s collection and artists.

The Timeline is an example of the application of Linked Open Data Web specifications. The Prado’s Knowledge graph conforms to a series of hybridised ontologies and vocabularies that reflect the standards of the Semantic Web. This means that the concepts used in the Museum’s website, such as artists and their birth and death dates, will encounter their homologous concepts in other information sources, such as Wikipedia and Wikidata, requesting the related data from them for a specific year, for example. This allows for each work and artist in the Museum to be provided with a very specific context while also giving the collection as a whole an extensive informational background that is exceptionally useful for teaching and learning purposes.

The use of Artificial Intelligence for the expanded reading of the collections and the creation of the Timeline based on semantic technology, using a range of external data sources such as Wikipedia as a contextual base, is an innovation on a world-wide level in the museum sector. Through the employment of these resources the Museo Nacional del Prado has reinforced its leading position in the application of the most recent and cutting-edge digital technology for the purpose of disseminating its works and artists, consolidating itself as an international reference for museums and cultural institutions in the use of the principles of the semantic web, the interconnected web and most recently, Artificial Intelligence.