Distinguished Persons in Greek History and Art: a new way of discovering content on SearchCulture.gr

A new functionality: The new bilingual catalogue links persons with items they created and items they relate to, across all collections

SearchCulture.gr, the national aggregator for digital cultural content, launches a new way of exploring the digital collections it aggregates. Search and browse the persons who are either creators of digital records or related persons. The new functionality is user-friendly and boasts an elegant interface. There are two ways to search: you can search for important persons and access all the items on SearchCulture.gr created by them ie works of art, music, theatre, literary works. Alternatively, you can search for related content that  references a person, ie photographs, documents, portraits, texts, relating to them. There are customizable ways for viewing the results and various filters to further refine the search as much as the user wants.

The value for research and historical or biographical study is immense as all the relevant records on the aggregator are easily identified, ie records relating to the person being researched and sources of significant contextual information which provide the conceptual framework sought by a historian or scholar. Even citizens who are interested in history and biographical study can easily discover the work of an historical figure, using the user-friendly navigation functionalities. Searching for a name of a known entity is a widely accessible gateway for everyone offering a more popular and easy-to-use entry point, understood by all ages and educational levels. In addition to searching for items based on personalities, a page was created to search for persons by name, title or date of birth. For example, the user can select from a list of 363 occupations and locate sets of persons with those occupations, ie search for politicians, philhellenes, poets, archaeologists, etc. Search results can be sorted and presented in a variety of ways: by date of birth-decreasing or ascending, by the number of items relating to a person as creator or connected person,  the total number of items or the names of persons in alphabetical order. In addition, results can be filtered by status or decade of birth. This functionality offers an even easier way to navigate the rich content of SearchCulture.gr, without necessarily having historical knowledge or looking for a specific name. Each personality page contains basic biographical information about a person and is sharable on social networks.

The homepage offers a more appealing way to discover items related to a person - through the cloud of personality images most frequently appearing in the aggregator.

Meeting the diverse needs of user communities

The multiple search and view options on offer are designed to meet the diverse research needs and different search, sharing and sorting options needed to find the results one is  interested in. There are simple navigation modes, by which, with one click a user can explore the work or the references to a personality that interests them. There are more or less targeted browsing paths that highlight relationships between individuals, promoting new conceptual links and cognitive paths for the user.

The design of the user experience took into account both the best search practices in modern databases and digital libraries and the needs of users based on user research, with the ultimate goal of comprehensively meeting the different needs of SearchCulture.gr user communities.

Thus, for example, a student can search the content type 'photographs' for Seferis' the person in question and locate a number of photographs of the poet or photographic works with references to him. A researcher can choose to look for the works created by persons classed as 'Scholars' during the chronological period of the Greek Enlightenment, 1600-1800, and thus retrieve a set of works created by Scholars in the 17th and 18th century. A journalist can look for items created, for example, political figures, a specific period of time, e.g. in the 60's and even filter the results using the type 'text' and only those that have open licences. In the next phase, the content of the SearchCulture.gr aggregator will be enriched with geo-locations. This will allow the user to easily find related items (eg created) in a specific location or to navigate to items via an interactive map.


Distinguished Persons in Greek History and Culture

The basis for the new functionality EKT has introduced to SearchCulture.gr is the 'Vocabulary of Distinguished Persons in Greek History and Culture'.

The Vocabulary was created to link natural persons with items in SearchCulture.gr, which they themselves have created or are referenced by them. It is bilingual and includes about 8,000 names. One third of the Vocabulary is devoted to people of letters and culture (2,750 records), among them 1,750 artists, numerous writers (1,140), scientists (1,150), hundreds of political, religious and military historical figures, 1821 Freedom Fighters and many philhellenes and Europeans who played a role in Greek history. This number will constantly increase as new collections are added to SearchCulture.gr. The aim is to connect as many items about these important personalities as possible.

Each person record contains the basic biographical information that identifies him/her, such as his/her date, place of birth and death, and is enriched with the main occupation or profession of the person, from a Vocabulary of Professions/Occupations created by EKT. In this context, information was extracted from and entries were linked to popular online sources and trusted databases, such as the Virtual International Authority Files (VIAF), Wikipedia, Pandektis collection: Treasure of Greek History & Culture - Institute of Historical Research of the National Research Foundation, National Gallery, Biblionet,  IMDb,  Music Library of Lillian Voudouri, the archives of the Institute of Contemporary Greek Art (ISET),  the Kounadis Archive, etc.

The Vocabulary is hosted on Semantics.gr, EKT’s infrastructure for managing and publishing vocabularies. One of its most important features is that the data in this directory with the names of prominent persons is published as linked open data and is available through a web API. It is open for reuse by any organisation that wishes to use it to enrich its own collections.

Digital curation: an important work of an aggregator for enhancing findability

Digital curation, ie a normalisation and enrichment workflow, is part of the strategy developed by each big data aggregator in order to address the issue of heterogeneity. For the past five years, the team of SearchCulture.gr scientists has been curating the content and enriching records with terms from authoritative vocabularies which it develops in order to be able to provide better search and navigation functions across the board, for the tens of thousands of records that are aggregated. All the content in SearchCulture.gr has been enriched in terms of types, historical periods and subjects, and recently persons of historical significance.

Using the Vocabulary of Distinguished Persons, the collections of SearchCulture.gr were enriched with persons names. The methodology included locating the relevant documentation in the metadata of the institutions: some institutions used the title for documenting a creator or related person, others used the field Contributor or Creator and others documented this information in the field Subject. Using the smart enrichment tool of Semantics.gr, this information was extracted from various fields of the primary documentation of the institutions, homogenized and enriched with the relevant term from the Vocabulary of Distinguished Persons.

56,767 persons names were mined from the titles, 39,063 persons names from the 'Subject' field and 141,578 persons names from the 'Creator' field. A total of over 170,000 items were enriched with terms from the Vocabulary of Persons.

This process achieves a standardized way of referencing a person across the board in SearchCulture.gr, regardless of the way in which each institution initially documented that person (eg 'Rigas Feraios', 'Feraios', 'Rigas Ferraios', 'R . Feraios','Feraios Rigas', 'Rigas Velestinlis' are all used for the same person, Rigas Feraios, the writer and revolutionary). In addition, thanks to this process, persons who have the same name can be distinguished. For example, a search for Leontas Melas will distinguish between the diplomat of the 20th century and the politician and author of 'Gerostathis' of the 19th century.

The project

SearchCulture.gr is the National Aggregator of digital cultural content and the national accredited aggregator for Europeana. SearchCulture.gr collects metadata and preview images of digital cultural resources from the websites and repositories of participating organisations and publishes them enriched on the Search Portal. The upgrade and expansion of the SearchCulture.gr aggregator with new functionalities is being carried out by EKT under the 'National Research, Information and Technology System: Digital Content Aggregation, Documentation and Dissemination Infrastructure ensuring interoperability, long-term preservation and open access'.

The operation is carried out in the context of the project “National Information System for Research, Technology, Development, Innovation –Aggregation, Documentation and Dissemination of Digital Content & Data, that promotes interoperability, long-term preservation and open access”. The project, implemented by EKT, is co-financed by Greece and the European Union - European Regional Development Fund by the Operational Programme “Reform of the Public Sector 2014-2020”.