Documentation of Digital Heritage Information Resources: Expanding Access for Research and Education

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Nadezhda Georgievna Povroznik

    Perm State National Research University

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This paper discusses the latest approaches to developing information systems for digital cultural heritage on a global scale, including the creation of catalogs and infrastructure for resource documentation. Digital cultural heritage resources are diverse in content, origin, purpose, scale, technology and user audience. They may take the form of digital collections of institutions in the GLAM sector, such as virtual museums [11], electronic archives and libraries [10], or national infrastructures and international aggregators, systems and services for visualization and analysis of sources, and for representing virtual reconstructions. Documentation systems are essential to facilitate advanced digital humanities research and to provide greater user access.
Whereas object-oriented documentation may be used effectively to describe individual digital cultural heritage objects (including digitized objects of written and textual heritage, objects of art, 3D-models from objects to architectural complexes, etc.) [5], information resources for digital cultural heritage require additional description of their creation process and the technologies used, details of content, and other features. The V-Must project (Virtual Museum Transnational Network) [12], contains a set of virtual museums and a catalog including 54 information resources of predominantly European museums containing digital collections of exhibits. V-Must has a meta-description system for organizing resources, which includes 8 description fields, including for content, duration, audience engagement, interaction technology, level of immersion, format, scope and sustainability. There are also lists of information resources organized thematically [13], by use (as in education [1], for example) or by type of information resource [3]. However, such lists are not catalogs in the full sense, as they do not allow sophisticated search or sorting functions.
It is important to note that national infrastructures for digital cultural heritage [for example, 7, 9] and international aggregators [2, 4] integrate digital collections of GLAM institutions at the object level, providing cross-collection search capabilities. However, they are not primarily intended for documenting the information resources (such as websites, web-projects, platforms and their features) of these institutions. Effective systems for documenting such resources require a different approach because their purpose is to organize data by categorizing a very wide range of types of information resources.
In the Center for Digital Humanities at Perm State University, Russia, a documentation system has been developed – a project known as “Historically-oriented information systems” or the platform [6]. Initially, this information system was designed to solve a specific scientific problem related to the study of historical-oriented information systems [8]. The platform was then upgraded and the database of the system was expanded to include a much wider range of characteristics related to describing information resources for digital cultural heritage. The current system is designed to document digital historical and cultural heritage information resources of various types, for wider use in research and education. The resource meta-description structure includes 39 fields that represent 3 groups of data:
1) Data on the creators of the information resource (authors, organizations, cities and countries);
2) General information about the information resource (title of the resource, website, abstract of content, languages ​​of the interface and collected sources, year of creation of the resource, and sources of maintaining);
3) Content description metadata (subject, geography, period, discipline and subdiscipline, type of electronic resource, purpose, target audience, types of cultural heritage objects presented, presence of virtual tour, interactive ways of communicating with users, and existing users’ personal accounts).
The platform currently contains 1397 documented information resources, and it continues to be expanded, pre-moderated by a specialist. In the structure of the documentation system, there are several ways to present created catalog data: 1) by country; and 2) by the full list of all resources. The extended search form allows the user to select one or more desired characteristics for a list of results. The documentation system is freely available online and is widely used as a reference and information retrieval system. In addition, the system is actively used in the training of Bachelor and Master’s students in courses related to Digital Humanities. The Center for Digital Humanities has developed a Master’s degree program “Digital Sociocultural and Art Practices”, which includes the course “Virtual Museums, Archives and Libraries”, which includes practical tasks related to the search and analysis of information resources for digital cultural heritage.
In summary, documentation systems play an important role in the modern world of information infrastructure for digital cultural heritage. The diversity of information resources requires further study and classification, which is also necessary for more detailed documentation and cataloging of these resources. The method and solutions proposed expand possibilities for finding thematically similar information resources, and provide a global model to make such resources more accessible for research and education.

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