Linking Cultural Heritage Resources to Spatiotemporal Places


Gerald Hiebel


One fundamental research question in information integration in the Cultural Heritage domain is the identification of two individuals in different data sources as being the same individual in reality. This research question is also known as a co-reference problem, and is an essential question within the Linked Open Data Initiative. Places are often used in Cultural Heritage applications to link data sets, but this linkage poses semantic and practical questions. On the example of co-reference statement of the birth place of an artist in the linked data version of the Smithsonian American Art Museum to an entry in the geonames geographic gazetteer and to place information in Wikipedia we investigated the identity of places, the use of place name gazetteers for co-referencing places an the spatiotemporal relations of co-referenced places. The goal of this project is to propose a theoretical and practical approach to the co-reference problem for places.

To model the underlying semantics of cultural heritage information and geospatial information, the approach will use CIDOC CRM and in particular CRMgeo, an extension to the CIDOC CRM for geospatial information, which defines identity criteria for places in Cultural Heritage based on the differentiation between phenomenal and declarative places. Phenomenal places derive their identity from real world phenomena like events or things and have a temporal extent that corresponds to the duration of the event or the lifetime of physical thing. Declarative places derive their identity from human declarations like coordinates and may have a (declarative) time span. Thus phenomenal places are always spatiotemporal, while declarative places may have a temporal component that is declared as well and in addition have a creation event. The theoretical goal of the project was to furthrt develop the methodology to be able to apply this differentiation with its spatiotemporal implications to the co-reference problem for places in order to link cultural heritage resources to spatiotemporal places.
The practical approach aimed at developing a tool chain that makes it possible to actual perform this co-reference in particular to place name gazetteers. The practical approach was first tested with linked open data of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, geonames and Wikipedia data and then applied to integrate Eastern Alps mining history sources and connect them to Linked Open Data.

The research was financed through an FWF-Erwin-Schrödinger-Fellowship (J3646-N15) and conducted at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California and the Surveying and Geoinformation unit of the University of Innsbruck in close collaboration with the Research Centre HiMAT that explores the history of mining activities from prehistoric to modern times in the eastern alps.