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Day 2: National Gallery and ICS

David McMeekin and Michael Carter

01 February 2021

After this morning’s presentations, which included the continued introduction of the Institute’s member’s work, followed by an intriguing introduction to a new painting histories database the National Gallery has been developing, an interesting discussion broke out over lunch in regards to the use of paradata.

With different people of different backgrounds, some questions were asked about what is paradata and why was it seen as perhaps not being welcomed? Is there a set standard for annotating art history was asked? There isn’t.


Working within an Open Linked Data format, continuously extending the data, linking more and more annotations to the data set, does this add to the provenance of the data? If this is paradata, perhaps it is a way to build the provenance of the digital interpretation we are building.

In creating digital interpretations of art history, in the discussion, it became clear there were several differing understandings and perspectives of what digital interpretation is meant to be about. In the context of digital interpretation, in building this kind of representation, what perspective or lens are you looking from? Art historians had a perspective of creating the digital interpretation with an end goal in mind, however others view data as an ever-evolving organic form.


Another perspective was to create the digital interpretation, as a means of standardizing the process, in an Open Linked Data format to start with. Once it is created, let the developers, researchers and others take the data and do something with it. Let’s see what they do with it. Is this a way to take ancient art to the masses? Does this facilitate a way for people, not from a traditional art history background, to do something that hasn’t been thought of before?

A challenge the art historians saw was, what if things are created that may not be accurate from an art historian’s perspective? Is this alright? Does the data interpretation need to be protected? Answering these questions traced back to what is the purpose of creating the digital interpretation of the art? Having an understanding of what the project focuses on and what its outputs need to be, this will be what drives answers to these questions…mostly.

As we move towards the Open Linked Data format, do we need to give up control of the data? Is it really giving up control of the data or is it the interpretations of the art that need to be let go of? What might come of ancient art understanding when the digital interpretation is released in a way that it can be processed by anyone and not only that, it can be processed machine to machine?


Our day ended with an enlightening trip to the Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London across from the British Museum, to listen to the success and challenges of developing a relational database, with user driven annotation functionality, used to better connect known Greek and Roman classical antiquities, with geospatial data.


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