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26
DigiCULT
T
he Semantic Web, according to a statement
of its well-known advocate Tim Berners-
Lee, is a vision of `a distributed machine
which should function so as to perform socially
useful tasks'.
1
This machine should allow intelligent
software agents to understand semantic relationships
between Web resources in order to seek relevant
information and perform transactions for humans.
Contrasted with the existing, human-readable Web,
the Semantic Web is envisaged as a Web of machine-
readable data that will be based on `languages for
expressing information in a machine processable
form'.
2
Key to an understanding of the Semantic
Web, therefore, is how these languages function, how
information is expressed in order that computers can
automatically process Web sources and assist in
making the Web more useful for humans.The aim
of this chapter is to provide an overview of the
Semantic Web concept by describing its general
architecture, i.e. the interplay of its languages.
The chapter has two interrelated parts. Part 1
describes a Finnish project that strives to build the
foundations for the "Finnish Museums on the
Semantic Web" (FMS), a future semantic museum
portal.This part consists of the information boxes
on the following pages, which briefly describe the
necessary elements and steps in the set-up of the
FMS system. It is recommended to start by reading
this description (see also graphic 3 on page 36 which
provides an overview of the set-up of the FMS
system). It should be helpful in gaining a general
understanding of how semantic interoperability of, and
new ways of interacting with, semantically marked-up
cultural heritage information can be realised.
Part 2, the texts below the information boxes, is
a primer that explains terms used in part 1 which
represent core elements of the Semantic Web
architecture, as well as providing illustrative examples.
The explanations are not intended to give in-depth
definitions of these elements; such definitions are
provided in the relevant W3C specifications.The
examples have been kept as simple as possible but
build on each other. In this way, we will develop
a (fictitious) Website, http://www.m-i.org, that
provides semantically enhanced access to such
marvellous medieval images as the ones we have
used to illustrate this Thematic Issue.
How to Make Collection Metadata of
Museums Semantically Interoperable on
the Web The "Finnish Museums on the
Semantic Web" (FMS)
The Semantic Web concept is visionary, and there
are dedicated people, also in the heritage sector, who
are trying to make it a reality. In our example, a
group of researchers and technology developers, who
work at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki
Institute for Information Technology, are translating
the Semantic Web vision for a future semantic
museum portal.
The group's two-year project will run until spring
2004, and is being carried out in co-operation with,
and with funding from, major organisations including
A C
ULTURAL
H
ERITAGE
S
EMANTIC
W
EB
E
XAMPLE
& P
RIMER
By Guntram Geser
1
Tim Berners-Lee:
Interpretation and Semantics on
the Semantic Web (1998),
http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/
Interpretation.html
2
Tim Berners-Lee: Semantic
Web Road Map (1998),
http://www.w3.org/
DesignIssues/Semantic.html
3
Robert DuCharme,
http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-
dev/ 200211/ msg00190.html