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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Virterbi Partners with Smithsonian for Online Archive

USC and the Smithsonian are working on bringing art to the web. 

The USC Virterbi School of Engineering's Information Sciences Institute is working to bring art to the web in innovate ways. They will collaborate with the Smithsonian American Art Museum to create a more detailed information about art in its collection online.

Online users will be able to access records of more than 40,000 artworks, which will be converted to Linked Open Data (LOD). LOD is a system that tags and publishes information that is designed to be easier to interlink into what Professor Craig Knoblock calls "the linked data cloud." 

"The art museum has all the data about their artwork that they wouldn't want to use it for display," said Knoblock, a professor in computer science who's working on the project. "This would help promote the museum, their mission is to promote their artwork and they view this as a way to get more visibility."

LOD uses a more precise tagging information than currently used on the web and allows users to access information and get rid of useless results sometimes found in other searches. USC mapped data into a standard LOD model and is trying to link the published data of the artist and artwork to other online sources like DBpedia- the Linked Open Data version of Wikipedia.

The LOD system is an advancement of the "semantic web." This means it is a movement with the goal of making a system where machines can understand the meaning of information on the Internet and perform tasks automatically.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for art museums to find a way to engage the community through art and education by using the information they have available," Knoblock said. 

For example, right now when you go into a museum you can look at the art and read the card with the information on it. By using this system, you have an accessible way to find why they painted the portrait, who the subject is, find out what was happening during the time period, and learn more about the artist.

Having the information on LOD will create broader access for artwork. Right now many museums have their own websites but users have to visit each individual website to find the entire collection and learn additional facts. With these museums going to an LOD display they  would be able to search through all the content on an individual website. 

The project is scheduled to be completed in June 2013.

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