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Pushing the boundaries of access to cultural content

detail from Renoir's Les Parapluies, National Gallery, London
detail from Renoir's Les Parapluies, National Gallery, London

This month, researchers from the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) will show how some of the latest developments in multimedia knowledge technologies can benefit cultural heritage and creative industries.

Dr Kirk Martinez from ECS and Dr Matthew Addis from ECS’ IT Innovation Centre will be present at this year’s Museum Association Conference at Bournemouth International Centre from 23-25 October to demonstrate how their software provides exciting new ways for museums and galleries to make their multimedia collections more accessible.

Dr Addis commented: ‘Our cultural institutions are fantastic sources of multimedia content. Yet users are often confronted by a myriad of resources to use, and have to guess what search terms to use, trawl through endless lists of hits, and cross their fingers that they haven’t missed the very thing they were looking for. We’re tackling the challenge of how to combine and make available multimedia resources in a way that fits with how people want to use them in education, publishing, public access and scholarly research.’

ECS will show how a whole host of advanced technologies including semantic web, content-based analysis, and cutting-edge user interface design can be used to find, navigate, create and use multimedia content.

Dr Martinez said ‘Most people are familiar with Google-style searching where we use a keyword to two to describe what we want. But what happens if what we want hasn’t been labelled that way, or if you don’t know what you are looking for? Being able to say ‘find me things which look like this’ provides a creative way to explore large art collections. Content-based retrieval involves the application of content-analysis techniques to collections of images, video and, more recently, 3D models, to support this new way of searching.’

ECS will also demonstrate eCHASE, a project funded by the European Commission which is investigating business models for public-private partnerships between cultural heritage content holders (museums, libraries, archives) and content users in education and publishing. Partners include two photo libraries (Fratelli Alinari and Getty Images), a publisher (Instituto Geografico D’Agostini) and a television broadcaster (ORF) who are providing and using content according to various interpretations of a theme entitled ‘wandering borders in Eastern Europe’.

ECS is developing the software platform for eCHASE which allows multimedia content from a wide range of organisations to be semantically integrated and easily used by professionals in education and publishing. eCHASE provides an excellent set of multimedia and multilingual content with which to explore how multimedia knowledge technologies can be used to search, navigate, link, theme and annotate content for use in a wide range of editorial products.

New Technologies for Cultural Heritage and the Creative Industries brochure


Posted by Joyce Lewis on 20 Oct 2006.