The team were generous with their time, offering a long presentation that covered the principles that underlay their approach to Linked Open Data, the practicalities of working with curators whose rich implicit knowledge the ResearchSpace could capture and preserve, and the promise of a new way to construct narrative and argumentation. These were presented as superstructures of knowledge, constructed of generic components, that remained rooted in the data and could be contested or elaborated, with specific reference to sources, within the digital environment. After much talk this week around representing the provenance of an object, Oldman drew our attention to an equivalent requirement that ResearchSpace addresses: preserving ‘knowledge provenance.’
A primary concern must be to address what art historians and curators can now do in the digital space that they could not previously in the physical one, given the specific constraints of the latter. However, it is important to remember the biases and constraints that may be in implicit in the digital tools currently used by art historians. For their new digital methodologies to respect but extend practices rooted in their disciplinary traditions, it is crucial that art historian’s own research questions and the conceptual frameworks that they employ to address them are fully reflected in the design of those tools. Only then can the processes of art historical enquiry develop in directions that offer genuinely new possibilities, whilst remaining rigorously grounded.