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Building Resources for Integrated Cultural Knowledge Services

Exploitable results

The Bricks Integrated Project aimed to establish the organisational and technological foundations for a digital library of the European digital memory. A 'digital library' in this context refers to a networked system of services over globally available collections of multimedia digital content, providing a variety of knowledge layers for a variety of users and access modalities. The Bricks vision was that of an integrated system offering functionality for a new generation of digital libraries, which becomes a comprehensive term covering 'digital museums', 'digital archives' and other kinds of digital memory systems. The technology results of the project constitute the main assets over the top of which the 'Bricks factory', later on after the end of the project, will be subsidised by the interested core technology partners. The mission of the Bricks factory is the design, development and maintenance of a user and service-oriented space to share knowledge and resources in the cultural heritage domain. In order to achieve this vision, three main project objectives have been defined and addressed accordingly: - Objective 1 Infrastructure: an open, distributed, scalable and safe infrastructure has been built delivered and extensively tested. Such an infrastructure provides the enabling technology baseline for the European digital memory. - Objective 2 Added-value applications: some added-value applications have been deployed over the top of the foundation infrastructure. These applications constitute a significant value for the user communities involved, and demonstrate both the viability of the Infrastructure approach in building application and services targeted to the cultural heritage domain, as well as the market potential of Bricks. - Objective 3 Sustainability: an appropriate business model for the open-source foundation services is going to be defined for sustaining and exploiting the Bricks services. In the third year of the project the final service-based integrated prototype of the infrastructure, known as the 'Foundation', including all the basic, core and fundamental services, has been released. The infrastructure has been implemented through the integration of independent software units called 'Bricks', which are deployed on the nodes of the architecture. A Brick is an independent building block whose functionality is made available through a formally defined interface. Bricks can be composed together to provide richer functionality. In the final period of the project (year four) the Foundation has been significantly improved and redesigned in terms of performance and stability. Furthermore, developer feedback has been taken into account to improve the foundation API and important missing functionalities like security, digital rights management and annotations have been added. Extensive tests within a testbed ensured the high quality of the infrastructure releases. In order to test and validate the Foundation infrastructure and demonstrate how to build value-added applications and services over the top of such an infrastructure, some significant added-value pillar applications have been developed and made available. The intention is to use such applications for validating the Foundation services and, at the same time, be the basis of the future advancement of the Bricks Factory and be an attractive for the creation of a future cultural heritage community. The initial pillar services have the following objectives and users: - Pillar 1 A scenario regarding the possibility to share knowledge and information about complex cultural heritage objects. The selected area concerns archaeological sites. The objective is to understand how to use IT tools to aggregate, compare and distribute information and data. Target users are art, historical and cultural heritage researchers. - Pillar 2 A services-oriented shared network to distribute, transfer and compare knowledge and expertise about internal management processes for culture, targeted at small and medium-sized museums. This means the creation of services for the training, expertise transfer and discussion of internal processes of museums, such as the organisation of an exhibition, the training of new people, the visualisation and design of an art collection, and so on. The targeted users of this scenario are the managers and professionals working in small and medium-sized museums. - Pillar 3 An integrated, shared space for the use of digital content to manage, to add personal experience, to generate new knowledge and create culture. The targeted user group are the general public and the visitors of real and virtual cultural exhibitions. - Pillar 4 A scenario relevant to the aggregation of and access to digital editions of texts (artistic and historical documents and manuscripts), together with an advancement in the shared creation and access to critical editions in art, science and history. Targeted users are the archive and library professional community. All the pillar applications concerning pillar 1, 2 and 3 have been successfully implemented and tested against the Foundation services, while pillar 4 has been extensively specified. Significant activities addressing the main objective of sustainability have been undertaken during the last six months of the Bricks project. In particular: - A validated business plan has been delivered, including a two-step business strategy for the post-project period known as Bricks-after-Bricks (the Bricks Laboratory and the Bricks Factory), an updated market and competition analysis and the financials for Bricks-after-Bricks have been produced. - A post-project cooperation agreement between four core technology partners (Engineering, Metaware, CNR and ARC) has been signed with a period of validity of one year, defining how these partners will share roles, responsibilities, liabilities and costs for one year after the end of the project. - The Foundation demonstrators (the Bricks workspace, the Bricks desktop and the Bricks importer) have been extensively tested in the real digital libraries context against a great amount of data. - A real production Bnet has been set up, including Bnodes installed in prominent cultural heritage institutions. - An open source community has been maintained and increased through targeted dissemination activities, such as tailored workshops held in worldwide famous open source conferences (Apache conferences) and panels at digital libraries conferences (ECDL 2007), and awareness about Bricks has been raised in some of the most significant open source communities (e.g.: OW2). - Several important players within the cultural heritage domain have decided to join the Bricks community (http://www.brickscommunity.org), which now includes more than 140 worldwide active members, who have declared their interest in sharing the Bricks results and in being early adopters of the Bricks services.