Technical Developments During the Project Lifecycle
Technology Incorporated in ConservationSpace Release 2.0 and Beyond
ConservationSpace utilizes Sirma’s Enterprise Management Framework Platform (EMF), a group of open-source products centered on Alfresco’s document management platform. The EMF consists of more than fifteen different packages, all open-source, including: relational, object, and semantic databases; document management; ontology management; user management; federated search; e-mail integration; single sign-on; identity management; and workflow management.
The database repository for ConservationSpace information is based on semantic technology. Semantic repositories are an alternative to more traditional relational databases for storing, querying, and handling structured data. While still relatively new, the semantic repositories offer easier integration and reasoning capabilities with a large volume of diverse data. Semantic technology is ideal for the way that information is gathered and stored in the conservation community. It enables searches to find relationships that current standard data models would deem to be unrelated. The semantic web approach has improved discoverability and access to information in data repositories not only within the conservation community but also in other cultural and scientific communities. This is particularly important for an application that must access and link highly heterogeneous data scattered in diverse systems, including some that will become known only after ConservationSpace is released to a broad market. This approach positions ConservationSpace to participate in other endeavors that seek to aggregate or federate access to ConservationSpace data with other Resource Description Framework (RDF) data sets, for example, ResearchSpace. The partners would contract the company, Ontotext AD, to build the conservation-specific ontology.
The basis for a semantic repository is an ontology that describes the concepts and relationships that can be applied to the data elements stored in the repository. During the Release 1.0 development, Sirma used the PROTON ontology developed by its subsidiary Ontotext, the creator of OWLIM), in order to provide maximum flexibility in describing the highly heterogeneous objects, i.e., cultural objects, images, reports that populate the ConservationSpace repository. Further ontology development focused on the conservation business domain also occurred during the Release 2.0 phase of the project.
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)
User interface and user experience were the primary focus of a workshop that occurred in fall 2014. User testing already indicated that the existing interface must be made simpler and more intuitive. Sirma developed the project to improve the UI and UX in Release 2.0.
While ConservationSpace can be used as a stand-alone document creation and management system, most conservators require integration with a CMS and DAM. During the Release 2.0 effort, the partner institutions investigated and provided Sirma with detailed information about their individual existing CMS and DAM systems. The National Gallery of Art (NGA) completed its own development (i.e. without Mellon Foundation support) of the APIs required to communicate with Gallery Systems, TMS (The Museum System) Collection Management Software and Extensis Portfolio. They shared the API work with the partners. These APIs allow the links needed in ConservationSpace to br download from collection information data that identifies specific cultural objects in TMS and works with digital images from the DAM (Digital Asset Management system) Portfolio. The initial effort focused on unidirectional communication with systems, but bidirectional communication will be required in the future.
Image Viewing and Annotation
ConservationSpace Release 1.0 uses the ResearchSpace image viewing and annotation module. It was extended to add features that now include shape and text annotation capabilities along with threaded comments that are associated with each annotation. Filtering and searching functions were also developed. A number of features were investigated and some were developed during the Release 2.0 work period. These included side-by-side image comparison, overlays, layering, and rotation. All image manipulation and development during Release 2.0 conforms to the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) standards. The development team and partners understood the need for and complexity in adopting a robust image viewing and annotation tool package. The group worked within IIIF standard to identify and integrate the best possible solution within the time and budget allotted. In November 2015, the Gallery’s IT staff established a working relationship with the IIIF governing body along with Sirma to speed up development of imaging tools that are of benefit to the imaging component in ConservationSpace. These efforts will have positive short and long term impact on ConservationSpace manifest in an outstanding package of image processing tools for conservators.
Future Collaboration Capacities
ConservationSpace easily facilitates sharing information. Accordingly, the idea that conservators from around the world could collaborate by viewing and adding to conservation documentation as processes are unfolding is a goal that could be more fully realized with the release of ConservationSpace. Outside collaborators could be given access to specific information through guest accounts with defined user roles and permissions.