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Enhanced Material Management: Application of Natural Language Processing and Rule-based Modelling for Simplifying Storage Requirements in a Museum

Georg Grossmann (University of South Australia, Australia)
Alice Beale (South Australian Museum, Australia)
Harkaran Singh (University of South Australia, Australia)
Ben Smith (University of South Australia, Australia)
Julie Nichols (University of South Australia, Australia)


Cultural heritage archiving is experiencing an increase in digitalisations of artefacts in the last 15 years. The reason behind this trend is a demand for providing information about the artefact in a more accessible way to the audience, for example, through online delivery or virtual reality. Other reasons might be to simplify and automate the management of artefacts. Having a ‘digital copy’ of artefacts, allows one to search an archive and plan its storage and dissemination in a comprehensive manner. With the increased digitalisation comes an increased use of artificial intelligence [AI] applications. AI can be very beneficial in classifying artefacts automatically through machine learning [ML] and natural language processing [NLP]. For example, an algorithm can identify the source and age of artefacts based on an image and can do this much faster for a large collection of photos than a human. Although AI provides many benefits, it also presents challenges: Sophisticated AI techniques require certain insights on how they work, need specialists to customise a solution, and require an existing large dataset to train an algorithm. Another challenge is that typical AI techniques are regarded as black boxes, which means they decide, but it is not obvious why a decision has been made. This chapter describes a project in collaboration with the South Australian Museum [SAM] on the application of AI to extract material lists from a description of artefacts. A large dataset to train an algorithm did not exist, and hence, a customised approach was required. The outcome of the project was the application of NLP in combination with easy-to-customise rules that can be applied by non-IT specialists. The resulting prototype achieved the extraction of materials from a large list of artefacts within seconds and a flexible solution that can be applied on other collections in the future.



Grossmann, G., Beale, A., Singh, H., Smith, B. and Nichols, J. (2024), "Enhanced Material Management: Application of Natural Language Processing and Rule-based Modelling for Simplifying Storage Requirements in a Museum", Nichols, J. and Mehra, B. (Ed.) Data Curation and Information Systems Design from Australasia: Implications for Cataloguing of Vernacular Knowledge in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 54), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 41-55.



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Copyright © 2024 Georg Grossmann, Alice Beale, Harkaran Singh, Ben Smith and Julie Nichols