Cultural Heritage and Restoration-Conservation: Ontology for the Use of a Common Repository for the Different Data Sources
The PARCOURS project, conducted under the aegis of the PATRIMA laboratory of excellence of the Fondation des sciences du patrimoine, is part of the implementation of an information system for heritage sciences, oriented towards conservation restoration data, which integrates data sources on this theme developed in PATRIMA’s partner conservation laboratories, as well as analysis data produced by the PATRIMEX platform.
The PARCOURS project is an application ontology whose objective is to provide a common reference point that would facilitate information sharing among the various conservation-restoration professionals. This exchange of information can lead to better decision-making and more appropriate interventions.
To offer conservation-restoration actors suitable means enabling them to find, access, retrieve and link their common data, the aim is to rely on the semantic web and data integration. These two technologies now offer solutions adapted to make heterogeneous data from various sources interoperable. The approach chosen to make conservation-restoration data interoperable can be summarized in two major steps.
The first step consists of a conceptual modelling phase in order to describe and understand the semantics of the data produced during a conservation-restoration process. The result of this modelling is the design of an ontology capable of offering a consensual framework for the formal representation of conservation-restoration data.
In the second phase, this ontology is implemented in a data integration system. The latter is an infrastructure built to simultaneously query different conservation-restoration data without worrying about the structure of the data being queried, nor about their sources of origin and even less about the precise way in which queries are constructed.
The construction of this ontology for conservation-restoration data followed four main phases: knowledge acquisition; analysis; conceptualization; evaluation and validation. After acquiring knowledge from experts in the field, in particular curators, restorers and scientists working in different centres, an analysis phase of the information collected made it possible to measure the degree of complexity of the flow of knowledge generated by a conservation-restore process (multidisciplinarity, volume, heterogeneity, etc.). The best approaches in terms of methodology were then adopted to effectively carry out the conceptualization phase, drawing in particular on existing ontological resources.
The first component of this architecture is the CIDOC CRM. This ontology already has a consensus on the modelling of heritage knowledge: we rely on this fact to build a conceptualization specific to the field of conservation-restoration. The development and structuring of this conceptualization will be carried by the CRMsci and CRMcr ontologies (provisional name for the PARCOURS part). These two components constitute the heart of the architecture. We reuse CRMsci, which is already an extension of CIDOC, to describe the knowledge related to scientific measures observed in the conservation-restoration process; CRMcr will also be built by making it compatible with CIDOC, to model the basic concepts of the domain, as well as the whole process leading to the conservation and restoration of heritage objects. These three ontologies will also define characteristic relationships that will allow the use of thesauri in the global system.
The conceptual work carried out on the basis of this construction architecture led to the definition of a factual and multidimensional model. This model “sees” the cultural object as the centre of gravity of conservation-restore data and articulates the flow of knowledge generated by a conservation-restore process around the events that occur in the life of the object. It also situates these events in a spatio-temporal context and proposes relationships that allow them to interact.
More specifically, as it is articulated, the PARCOURS ontology makes it possible to describe :
- the interactions between the informations that emerge from a cultural object (typology, form, dimensions, material constitution, location, state of conservation, etc.);
- knowledge (origin, nature, factor), natural or non-natural phenomena (alteration, degradation, ageing) that affect this object at a given moment ;
- the knowledge and information that can be obtained from scientific studies (diagnosis, analysis, sampling, etc.) carried out on the object;
- the material means used (instruments for analysis, diagnosis, sampling, etc.);
- information on the types of intervention (conservation, restoration, preventive conservation, etc.) undertaken on the object;
- knowledge about the different actors (conservators, restorers, scientists, etc.) involved throughout this conservation-restoration process.
The architecture provided for in PARCOURS does not aim to centralize data in a single database, but to integrate heritage information sources oriented towards conservation-restoration data in a distributed manner.