Fruitful Synergies between Computer Science, Historical Studies and Archives: The Experience in the PRiSMHA Project

Annamaria Goy, Cristina Accornero, Dunia Astrologo, Davide Colla, Matteo D’Ambrosio, Rossana Damiano, Marco Leontino, Antonio Lieto, Fabrizio Loreto, Diego Magro, Enrico Mensa, Alice Montanaro, Valeria Mosca, Stefano Musso, Daniele Radicioni, Cristina Re

Abstract

In this paper we present the mid-term results of the PRiSMHA project, aimed to contribute in building a digital “smart archivist”, i.e., a web-based system providing an innovative access to historical archives. Such a system is endowed with a semantic layer over existing archival metadata, including computational ontologies and a knowledge base, containing a formal description of the content of the documents stored in the archives. The paper focuses on the fruitful synergies employed to reach its goal. In particular, it explains the steps of the “spiral” process implemented for creating a full-fledged formal semantic model, through the interaction between computer scientists, historians, and archivists. The paper also presents some “core side-effects” of this process: an analytical card for each document has been produced, all selected documents have been digitized, OCR-ized (when possible), and linked to a record on the archival platform. This experience enabled us to define a virtuous procedural model, from the paper documents up to the digital “smart archivist”, based on a close collaboration between universities and cultural and historical institutions.

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