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  • Final Report Summary - PHILLIPPS (Reconstructing the Phillipps Manuscript Collection: using Linked Data technologies to analyse the creation and dispersal of a major European cultural heritage collection)

Final Report Summary - PHILLIPPS (Reconstructing the Phillipps Manuscript Collection: using Linked Data technologies to analyse the creation and dispersal of a major European cultural heritage collection)

The project “Reconstructing the Phillipps Manuscript Collection” (626696) was intended to test and evaluate the applicability of innovative e-research methodologies in an important and significant field of cultural heritage research: the history and transmission of cultural objects between different owners and collections over many centuries. A specific collection was chosen: the manuscript collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), a now-dispersed very large 19th-century collection of at least 40,000 medieval and early modern manuscripts and documents, which played a crucial role in preserving a major component of Europe’s cultural heritage.

The main objectives of the project focused on aggregating data relating to the history of manuscripts in the Phillipps Collection, and making them available for analysis and visualization. Specific objectives included collecting descriptive data records relating to the history of these manuscripts from a variety of sources, mapping them to an appropriate Data Model, and ingesting them into a suitable software environment. A series of research questions and use cases would be identified, with the aim of testing them against the aggregated data. Analyses and visualizations would be carried out using the software platform chosen. The results of the research would be disseminated to interested and relevant groups: manuscript researchers, cultural heritage curators and institutions, and researchers working in the fields of digital humanities, data linkage and data modelling.

The work carried out during the project began with collecting data about manuscripts in the Phillipps Collection from a variety of sources: provenance databases, library and museum catalogues, published catalogues (in print and electronic versions) and handwritten material (including catalogue annotations and correspondence). A sample of the data was analysed in order to develop a Data Model capable of organizing and aggregating information relevant to provenance histories. Developing the Data Model also involved comparison with existing data structures, especially the CIDOC-CRM ontology.

Software platforms for implementing the Data Model, ingesting and aggregating the data, and running analyses and visualizations were identified and evaluated. Two types of software were installed and tested in detail: the Neo4j graph database and the Nodegoat database environment. Nodegoat proved to be the most suitable option. The Data Model was implemented in Nodegoat, together with pipelines for ingesting and aggregating data. Nodegoat’s capabilities for analysis and visualization were used to interrogate and display the aggregated data. Two specific research questions were investigated: the presence of former Phillipps manuscripts in North American collections, and the extent to which Phillipps manuscripts were later owned by an important 20th-century collector, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

The final results of the project were as follows:
• An evaluation of different approaches to the computational representation of provenance events for manuscripts and other cultural heritage objects;
• A new Data Model for provenance events for manuscripts and other cultural heritage objects;
• An assessment of the potential of two different types of graph database software – Neo4j and Nodegoat – for analysis and visualization of provenance histories;
• A Nodegoat database populated with a selection of relevant provenance data, with accompanying visualizations and analyses;
• Identification of Phillipps manuscripts currently housed in North American collections, with analysis and visualization of their histories;
• Identification of Phillipps manuscripts later owned by Alfred Chester Beatty, with analysis and visualization of their histories.

The results will be of value to a range of different groups: manuscript researchers, cultural heritage curators and institutions, and researchers working in the fields of digital humanities, data linkage and data modelling. In particular, the project has produced findings relevant to cultural heritage institutions, around questions of making their data available in suitable formats for reuse by researchers. The results are being disseminated through publications, social media and an extensive series of conference presentations during the course of the project. The project’s Web site is at: http://tobyburrows.wordpress.com

Related information

Reported by

KING'S COLLEGE LONDON
United Kingdom

Subjects

Life Sciences
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