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Art Tracks: Museums & the Web 2015

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The Carnegie Museum of Art is attempting to structure provenance data so curators, scholars, and software developers can create visualizations that answer questions that would be difficult or impossible to answer without computer assistance. Provenance, the written description of the history of ownership and custody of art, is typically written as a list of the periods, places, and owners of an artwork. It captures the current best understanding of this history in a succinct and precise manner, and illustrates the gaps and uncertainties that still remain. Provenance is typically written as semi-structured text, following an institution-defined format. It would be useful to have a structured, computer-readable format for this data, allowing for search, visualization, and aggregated research.

The American Alliance of Museums suggested standard, widely used across museums, is not defined with enough specificity to allow automated extraction of the structured data contained within provenance texts. Also, the provenance record model in collection management systems (CMS) is often not designed for structured data or does not provide a way to verify that the provenance text matches the structured data. A comprehensive text-based provenance standard, paired with a software library that can parse records written using this standard and convert them into structured data, would allow existing workflows to remain in place while allowing structured data to be automatically extracted from provenance records. The records could continue to be stored within existing CMS databases but contain machine-readable data for use in research and visualization. Outside of data itself, the stories these objects hold are often moving and sometimes astonishing. This ability to ask impossible questions and receive answers previously inaccessible across a museum’s collection and (eventually) across many museums’ collections is a resource art historians and scholars will find extremely valuable.

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Art Tracks: Museums & the Web 2015

  1. 1. Art Tracks Carnegie Museum of Art Museums & the Web 2015 April 10th, 2014
  2. 2. The Art Tracks Team: David Newbury Lead Developer Tracey Berg-Fulton Provenance Researcher Travis Snyder Collections Database Administrator
  3. 3. What is Art Tracks? An Institute of Museum and Library Services funded project to digitize and visualize provenance information.
  4. 4. Durand-Ruel, Paris, August 23, 1872 [1]; Catholina Lambert, New Jersey; Lambert sale, American Art Association, Plaza Hotel, New York, NY, February 21, 1916 until February 24, 1916, no. 67; Durand-Ruel, Paris, until at least 1930; purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris, by June 1936 [2]; anonymous sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., February 25, 1970, no. 19 [3]; Sam Salz, Inc., New York, NY; purchased by Museum, May 1971. NOTES: [1] bought from the artist. [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer). [3] "Highly Important Impressionist, Post-Impressionist & Modern Paintings and Drawings", illustrated.
  5. 5. purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris, France, by 1936 [2]; [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer).
  6. 6. Acquisition Methods: —"purchased by" —"gift of" —"by descent to" purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris, France, by 1936 [2]; [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer).
  7. 7. Location: Building, City, State, Country —New York, NY —France —Highclere Castle, West Berkshire, England purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris, France, by 1936 [2]; [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer).
  8. 8. Party: Name, life dates, titles, relationships —Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. [1909-1988] —Michel Monet, his son —Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris France, by 1936 [2]; [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer).
  9. 9. Dates: Period of ownership —January 1, 1995 —until the 15th century —sometime between 1885 and 1895 until May 1950 purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris, France, by 1936 [2]; [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer).
  10. 10. Constraints Not CMOA specific Single source of truth Useful for humans & computers Graceful Failure
  11. 11. Single Source of Truth.
  12. 12. Develop for people, not computers.
  13. 13. How are you going to fail?
  14. 14. What should truth look like? JSON? CIDOC-CRM Linked Open Data? Unstructured text blobs?
  15. 15. Unstructured Text Blobs. Human readable Will need to be supported indefinitely Current state of Collection Management Systems
  16. 16. CMOA provenance standard Formalization of AAM standard Same structure, just stricter Designed for both human and machine readability Draft document available
  17. 17. Leverage the Community. Location: Geonames Party: Internal CMS, ULAN, VIAF
  18. 18. Acquisition Methods:
  19. 19. Dates. I hate Pope Gregory.
  20. 20. What about EDTF? http://www.loc.gov/standards/datetime/
  21. 21. Footnotes: Additional descriptive information —Durand Ruel stock no. D1343 —See curatorial file for more information —Her birth name was Ellen Mary Cassatt purchased by Simon Bauer, Paris, France, by 1936 [2]; [2] Listed and illustrated in "List of Property Removed from France during the War 1939-1945" (no. 7114, as belonging to Simon Bauer).
  22. 22. museum_provenance library https://github.com/cmoa/ museum_provenance MIT License, standalone Ruby library. v. 0.1.1
  23. 23. Elysa A UI tool for museum professionals. TODO: open source this.
  24. 24. Storytime
  25. 25. Next Steps: EDTF Support. LOD for entity disambiguation Bibliography support Make Elysa deployable at other institutions Start working with multi-museum collections
  26. 26. Thank you, M&tW. — The Art Tracks team.

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