Information about biographies of museum objects (object provenance) is often unavailable in machine-readable format. This limits findability and reusability of object provenance information for domain research. We address the challenges of defining a data model to represent ethnographic cultural heritage objects’ provenance, which includes multiple interpretations (polyvocality) of, and theories for, the object biography, chains of custody and context of acquiring.
To develop a data model for representing the provenance of ethnographic objects, we conducted (semi-)structured interviews with five provenance experts to elicit a set of requirements. Based on these requirements and a careful examination of six diverse examples of ethnographic object provenance reports, we established a set of modelling choices that utilise existing ontologies such as CIDOC-CRM (a domain standard) and PROV-DM, as well as RDF-named graphs.
Finally, we validate the model on provenance reports containing six seen and five unseen ethnographic cultural heritage object from three separate sources. The 11 reports are converted into RDF triples following the proposed data model. We also constructed SPARQL queries corresponding to nine competency questions elicited from domain experts in order to report on satisfiability.
The results show that the adapted combined model allows us to express the heterogeneity and polyvocality of the object provenance information, trace data provenance and link with other data sources for further enrichment.
The proposed model from this paper allows publishing such knowledge in a machine-readable format, which will foster information contextualisation, findability and reusability.