Creating a platform for navigating verbo-visual art collections

Sara Tonelli, Italy , Rachele Sprugnoli, Italy

The “Verbo-Visual Virtual” (V.V.V.) project aims at developing a new web portal to unify and make available  the Verbo-Visual collections of two museums, namely the portion of “Archivio Nuova Scrittura” (ANS) owned by the  Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto (MART) and the part owned by the Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art of Bolzano (Museion).

Through the V.V.V. web portal, it will be possible for users to search for information about artworks now stored in two different museum archives. Besides, the project will enable content enrichment, note-taking, annotation and transcription. This will foster the collaborative acquisition of expert knowledge in a wiki-like fashion, possibly leading to the creation of a network of experts of Verbo-Visual art.

The project started in November 2013 and will last 24 months.

The project will include the following phases:

– Digitization of the verbo-visual artworks (around 4,000 pieces), after completing the cataloguing process currently performed by two art historians. This includes the adoption of a unified cataloguing standard, integrating information from MuseumPlus and AdLib, employed by the two museums.

– Implementation of the exploration platform, including the creation of a database containing all information on the verbo-visual collection, and the implementation of a web-based platform available in two versions. One version will be for naive users, and it will allow them to navigate through the collection. Basic search functionalities will be offered based on the available metadata (e.g. search by author’s name, date, artwork title, etc.). If some works are transcribed, it will be also possible to search by concept, i.e. the system will automatically recognize synonymous words in the transcriptions using text analysis techniques and cluster the corresponding occurrences. It will also be possible to retrieve the entries that are most similar to a given one, based on the number of matches in the medatata and – possibly – in the transcribed text. If information is annotated e.g. on the colour of the work, this feature will also be included in the search.  Another version will address expert users. In this setting a user will be able to review, add and modify information about the artworks of the catalogue using a wiki-like interface.

– Evaluation of the platform by naive and expert users in a real context based on a user-centered design approach. Expert users will be chosen by MART and Museion, while naive users will be selected among non-expert volunteers such as visitors of the two museums or students.

After the various cycles of test and revision of the platform, the interface will then be available online and accessible to the public. A final exhibition is planned in the two museums to present the outcome of the project at the end of the 24 months.


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