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Museum and Gallery Treasures Now More Accessible On-Line

The cultural treasures of European museums and galleries are now more accessible for education, work and leisure purposes through the worldwide web thanks to EU funding.

Four major European galleries (The Uffizi in Florence, The National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Research and Restoration Centre of the Museums in France) were involved in the development of the ARTISTE image search and retrieval system, using 2.7 million from the Information Society Technology (IST) Programme of the European Unions Framework Programme. They joined forces with NCR, a leading player in database and Data Warehouse technology; Giunti Interactive Labs, the new media design and development facility of Italy's leading art publishing group, Giunti Publisher; IT Innovation, specialists in the innovative application of information technology in industry and commerce; and the Intelligence Agents and Media group at the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton to create web based applications and tools for the automatic indexing and retrieval of high-resolution art images by pictorial content and information. Explaining the reasoning behind the project Matthew Addis, a leading researcher at UK project partner the IT Innovation Centre, Southampton said: Museums and galleries often have several digital collections ranging from public access images to specialised scientific images used for conservation purposes. Until now, direct access from one gallery to another has been uncommon for textual data and almost unheard of in terms of image-based search and retrieval. Cross-collection access is recognised as important, however, for example to compare the treatments and conditions of Europe's paintings, which form a core part of our cultural heritage. A key aim of ARTISTE was to provide an image retrieval system that could provide integrated cross-collection searching. Whilst ARTISTE is primarily designed for inter-museum searching and as a building block for public access systems, it could equally be applied to museum intranets. "We created new technology and techniques for searching, exploring and analysing hundreds of thousands of images from major art galleries across Europe," added Matthew Addis. The possibility of an easy and effective search and retrieval of large data repositories has become a strategic objective for many enterprises. This field of research is of particular interest, as the availability of large repositories of electronic data is increasing and the industrial interest to solve the problem of automated content-based indexing and retrieval of images is high. The ARTISTE system holds over 60,000 images from four separate collections belonging to the Uffizi, Research and Restoration Centre for Museums in France, National Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum. Although these collections are stored in separate databases and all have their own unique schema for the metadata that describes their contents, ARTISTE makes it possible to search quickly and transparently as if they were a single entity. Peter Walters, UK National Contact Point for IST within the EU's Sixth Framework Programme, added: Framework funding is the EU's main method of providing funding for collaborative research and innovation. ARTISTE highlights how this funding is being used to support projects that will provide technology that can be adapted to meet the needs of a number of users, as the ARTISTE system will be used in publishing, collection management, decision taking and life long training applications in the on-line information society of the 21st Century. The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free information on how to access some of the 17.5bn available should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080. ARTISTE has been well received by the user members within the consortium and further feedback was obtained after a scaled down version was made available to the 70 members of the ARTISTE Interest User Group (AIUG) as a publicly accessible dissemination system. The most notable features of ARTISTE include:,Easy to use web-based access to multiple image collections, using wizards that guide the user in composing and executing complex queries.,Integration of image analysis and text-based metadata searches within a single query.,No need to change the local metadata schema of an image collection since ARTISTE can transparently translate to common standards such as Dublin Core and CIMI (Computer Interchange of Museum Information) consortium attribute sets. ,Built-in potential for dynamic and automatic linking of search results to external information sources or services, for example reference information on painting techniques or e-commerce sites for gallery merchandise.,Support for open standards for remote access, for example OAI (Open Archive Initiative) and ZING SRW (Z39.50 International: Next Generation Search and Retrieval Web Service) so that other applications such as e-Learning tools can be added to an ARTISTE infrastructure. Further information can be found on the ARTISTE web site http://www.artisteweb.org Whilst ARTISTE is now finished, the work begun in the project is currently being extended in a follow-on called SCULPTEUR, see http://www.sculpteurweb.org for further details.The EUs Framework Programmes are the worlds largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Unions main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of 17.5 billion. Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas:,Life sciences, Genetics and Biotechnology for Health;,Information Society Technologies;,Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledgebased Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices;,Aeronautics and Space;,Food Quality and Safety;,Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and,Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas. The services of FP6UK are funded by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). More information can be found on http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk ,IST Programme ,The IST Priority Thematic Area (PTA) of the 6th Framework Programme(FP6) is the largest of the seven PTAs with a budget of 3.6bn over the lifetime of FP6. The first Call for proposals with a budget of 1070m - closed in April 2003. The second Call closed on 15 October 2003 and had a budget of 525m. The 3rd Call for proposals will be announced in early June 2004 along with a Joint Call with the Priority 3 area -Nanotechnologies, Materials and Production technologies

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