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The XML Family
of Technologies
Java and XML are suitable partner technologies in the building of applications that
exploit the web of information, particularly when different classes of clients (PC, PDA,
WAP-enabled mobile phone, etc.) generate and make use of information exchanged
between remote servers and different system platform types. Both technologies are plat-
form-independent and allow users to define variables, classes, methods and objects (or
their XML conceptual equivalents).
The portability and extensibility of both XML and
Java technology make them ideal for the flexibility and availability that the Semantic Web
demands, and Java is by some distance the most popular programming language used by
application developers working in this area. A fundamental difficulty with the usefulness
of the proposed Semantic Web for the cultural heritage sector is the amount of work that
will be needed to bring a significant proportion of existing Web resources into line with
W3C recommendations.This will be a colossal challenge, and one for which few cultural
organisations and institutions are financially equipped.The best approach would be to
work towards Semantic Web compatibility with new, XML-powered projects, and attempt
to develop strategies for the retroconversion of existing material when time and (techno-
logical, staff and financial) resources allow.
X M L a n d t h e H e r i t a g e S e c t o r
Brief Background
Despite its newness, XML has already had an impact on the working practices of some
cultural heritage institutions.The scalability and extensibility that are key features of
XML make it appropriate for many types and sizes of organisation. Numerous fields of
research and business have their own custom-designed XML technologies, for example
the Extensible Rights Management Language (XrML) used by content owners as a standard
to support transactions regarding the use and provenance of cultural content.
In the cultural heritage sector, SGML and XML have both been used to great effect in
archives and libraries, as well as in documentary studies
a discipline in which the utility
and value of markup have been familiar for decades.The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)
and the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) are two high-profile encoding schemes that
have embraced XML to fulfil a number of functions, and to expand the range of the
work they carry out.
The uses of XML for digital preservation were explored at an
ERPANET workshop in Urbino, Italy, in October 2002.The proceedings provide an
insight into the experiences of a number of European institutions.
The CIMI consor-
tium's work on creating a DTD for the Spectrum standard for object description has
XML can assist in the interchange of models as well as instances using XML Metadata Interchange (XMI, see and for more details.)
For a personal, specifically library-oriented discussion of the Semantic Web and its potential for the cultural
heritage sector, see Terrence A. Brooks, "The Semantic Web, universalist ambition and some lessons from
librarianship" in Information Research, vol. 7, no. 4, July 2002:
See the following section, on Rights Management and Payment Technologies, for more on the interrelation
between XML and content transfer and reuse.
The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler is a good example of such a project:
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