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Cultural Heritage is gaining a lot of attention lately. On one hand, scientific research is exploring the possibilities for providing appropriate technologies for digital and integrated access to cultural heritage collections. On the other hand, cultural heritage institutions are increasingly eager to collaborate with each other and to provide personalized views, navigation and access to their virtual and physical collections.
Communication and sharing information between cultures is based on meaning, i.e., semantics. We understand each other by sharing a common, underlying semantic conception about the world and culture. Meaning can be expressed in different natural languages and different conventions of representing and publishing information are used in different countries. This creates challenges for representing cultural content and cross-cultural communication.
Most cultural information systems today process data only on the syntactic level without concerning the rich semantic structures underlying the content. It is not easy to create advanced cultural applications, if the computers do not "understand" and share the meaning of the content they are processing. Making content machine understandable and interoperable is a goal of the Semantic Web, and publishing cultural heritage has been an active application area in semantic web research.
Cultural heritage has turned out to be an important application area of the Semantic Web. There are many conferences related to publishing cultural content on the web, such as the Museums and the Web (MW) series. However, there are no conferences focusing on the semantic issues of cultural heritage. A sign of growing interest is that the MW 2007 conference is largest ever this year and includes papers related to semantic web. There are earlier successful symposia arranged in 2006, such as Digital Semantic Content across Cultures (the Louvre), Expedition to European Cultural Heritage (Salzburg), and Virtual Museum (Denmark) that indicate large and multi-disciplinary interest in the topic. Many national research and development programmes are going on related to the topic, such as CATCH in the Netherlands, FinnONTO in Finland, and KMM in Sweden.
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