Network science and cultural heritage: the case of Montelupo Museo Archivio Biblioteca


As previously written, humanities and computer science aren't separate worlds. In this context, one of our challenges is the application of our holistic approach to the analysis of the Montelupo Museo Archivio Bibilioteca (MMAB)
This is a cultural institution located in Montelupo, a small town near Florence, in Tuscany. Since May 2014 the Museum of Ceramics (opened in 2008) as well as the library and the town's archive are all located in the same building and work as a single organization. 
Physical and virtual space 
The MMAB can be viewed as being  composed of two connected spaces, one physical and another virtual: our aim is to study how users behave in both areas. For instance, they move from one room of the building to another and consult a book, probably applying a specific pattern of action. Similarly, on the virtual side, people look through the online catalog searching for a specific item or surf the website of one of the three institutions looking for the opening hours. 
Heterogeneous data 
To reach this goal, we analyze different types of data from each institution, such as: 
  • the catalog's items; 
  • the contents related to these items, such as digital texts, audio and video files;
  • information about how users behave in the physical space; 
  • login and  websites searches as well as the online catalogs; 
  • behaviors and comments collected via social networks about the MMAB.
Analyzing this set of data  enables us to understand how users interact with and from within the MMAB and then allows us  to outline the profile of the institution and its social impact. 

But how exactly?  
Representing all information through a graph, we can see that elements such as artwork, books, authors, concepts, dates and users' comments are all part of the same system. Specifically, they are the nodes of a network that represent the MMAB and they are connected to each other. These relationships, of course, can differ in number and importance. Our goal is to identify which connections exist among those elements and mainly which are the most central as well as to discover hidden links and patterns among the nodes. 
This kind of interpretation allows us to understand how the MMAB works and which effects have been originated by the union of three different cultural organizations with their own stories and knowledge heritage. In addition, it would prove beneficial to improve access to the collections as well as improving a more effective use of both space and contents.

Finding a model 
Last of all, it is important to consider that this analysis is just an example of a model based on network science analysis that could be successfully applied to study every kind of space and to understand all aspects that contribute to define its own identity and their possible uses.

If you want to know more, download the paper about the MMAB case we submitted at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions conference in August 2014.