Navigating Context, Pathways and Relationships in Museum Collections using Formal Concept Analysis

  • Richard J. Cole (Author)
    Amazon Inc, Seattle, WA, USA
  • Frithjof Dau (Author)
    SAP Research, Dresden, Germany
  • Jon Ducrou (Author)
    Amazon Inc, Brisbane, Australia
  • Peter W. Eklund (Author)
    Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
  • Tim Wray (Author)
    IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Identifiers (Article)


The digital medium allows visitors, curators and art historians to gain new insights into their collections through data analysis and rich, interactive visualizations. Motivated by the rise of large-scale cultural heritage collections that have emerged on the Web, we argue that Formal Concept Analysis can be used to highlight the relationships between objects and their features within digital art collections and provide a means for visitors to explore these collections via interactive, narrated pathways. Our work presents four research projects that span 10 years from 2005 - 2015 – ImageSleuth, The Virtual Museum of the Pacific, A Place for Art and a scalability study of Formal Concept Analysis as applied to a data-set from the Brooklyn Museum. Our approach is based on the idea that much of the meaning that can be interpreted from museum collections lies – at least in part – in the way that objects are related to one another. Our work examines how Formal Concept Analysis can drive explorative, narrative-based visitor experiences and reveal new insights into cultural heritage collections.




Anderson, Gail. 2004. Reinventing the Museum: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Paradigm Shift. Rowman Altamira.
Andrews, Keith, Michael Pichler, and Peter Wolf. 1996. “Towards Rich Information Landscapes for Visualising Structured Web Spaces.” In Proceedings of the 2nd IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization, InfoVis ’96, 62–63. San Francisco.
Boyd, D, M Davis, C Marlow, and M Naaman. 2006. “HT06, Tagging Paper, Taxonomy, Flickr, Academic Article, To Read.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Hypertext and Multimedia. Odense, Denmark.
Cairns, Susan. 2013. “Mutualizing Museum Knowledge: Folksonomies and the Changing Shape of Expertise.” Curator: The Museum Journal 56 (1): 107–19. doi:10.1111/ cura.12011.
Cameron, Fiona. 2001. “Wired Collections - the next Generation.” Museum Management and Curatorship 19 (3): 309-- 312.
Cameron, Fiona, and Sarah Kenderdine. 2007. Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse. MIT Press.
Carpineto, C., and G. Romano. 2004. Concept Data Analysis: Theory and Applications. J. Wiley.
Clough, Paul, Mark Stevenson, and Nigel Ford. 2009. “Personalizing Access to Cultural Heritage Collections Using Pathways.”
Cole, Richard, Peter Eklund, and Gerd Stumme. 2003. “Document Retrieval for E-Mail Search and Discovery Using Formal Concept Analysis.” Applied Artificial Intelligence 17 (3): 257–80.
Colquhoun, Brooklyn. 2013. “Making Sense of Historic Photographic Collections on Flickr The Commons: Institutional and User Perspectives.” In Museums and the Web 2013: Proceedings, edited by Nancy Proctor and Rich Cherry. Portland, OR: Archives & Museum Informatics. paper/making-sense-of-historic-photographic-collections-on-flickr-the-commons-institutional-and-user-perspectives/.
Davey, Brian, and Hilary Priestley. 2002. Introduction to Lattices and Order. Cambridge University Press.
Davis, B. 1994. “Digital Museums.” Aperture, no. 136: 68–70.
Dork, M., S. Carpendale, and C. Williamson. 2011. “Visualizing Explicit and Implicit Relations of Complex Information Spaces.” Information Visualization 11 (1): 5–21. doi:10.1177/1473871611425872.
Dörk, Marian, Sheelagh Carpendale, and Carey Williamson. 2011. “The Information Flaneur: A Fresh Look at Information Seeking.” In Proceedings of the 29th SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1215–24. doi:10.1145/1978942.1979124.
———. 2012. “Fluid Views: A Zoomable Search Environment,” 233–40.
Ducrou, J. 2007. “DVDSleuth: A Case Study in Applied Formal Concept Analysis for Navigating Web Catalogs.” In Conceptual Structures: Knowledge Architectures for Smart Applications, 496–500. LNCS 4604. Springer-Verlag.
Ducrou, J, B Vormbrock, and P Eklund. 2006. “FCA-Based Browsing and Searching of a Collection of Images.” In Proceedings of 14th International Conference on Conceptual Structures, 203–14. LNAI 4068. Springer.
Ducrou, Jon. 2007. “Design for Conceptual Knowledge Processing: Case Studies in Applied Formal Concept Analysis.” University of Wollongong Thesis Collection. University of Wollongong.
Eklund, Peter, Jon Ducrou, and Peter Brawn. 2004. “Concept Lattices for Information Visualization: Can Novices Read Line-Diagrams?” In International Conference on Formal Concept Analysis, 57–73. Springer.
Eklund, Peter, Tim Wray, Peter Goodall, and Amanda Lawson. 2012. “Design, Information Organisation and the Evaluation of the Virtual Museum of the Pacific Digital Ecosystem.” Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Humanized Computing 3 (4). Springer-Verlag: 265–80.
Engberg, Maria. 2017. “Digital Archives , the Museum and the Culture Snacker.” In Openness: Politics / Practices / Poetics, 14–23. Living Archives. files/2015/01/openness_final.pdf.
Ennis-Butler, Ben, Sam Hinton, and Mitchell Whitelaw. 2011. “Playing with Complexity: An Approach to Exploratory Data Visualisation.” In Proceedings of the 2011 Conference of the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools, edited by Gordon Bull.
Gaver, W. 2002. “Designing for Homo Ludens.” I3 Magazine.
Godin, Robert, C Pichet, and J Gecsei. 1989. “Design of a Browsing Interface for Information Retrieval.” In ACM SIGIR Forum, 32–39. ACM.
Goldfarb, Doron, Max Arends, Josef Froschauer, and Dieter Merkl. 2011. “Revisiting 3D Information Landscapes for the Display of Art Historical Web Content.” Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology - ACE ’11. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press, 1. doi:10.1145/2071423.2071480.
Goodale, Paula, Paul Clough, Nigel Ford, Mark Hall, Mark Stevenson, Samuel Fernando, Nikolaos Aletras, Kate Fernie, Phil Archer, and Andrea De Polo. 2012. “User-Centred Design to Support Exploration and Path Creation in Cultural Heritage Collections.” In Proceedings of the 2nd European Symposium on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval, i:75-- 78.
Gorgels, Peter. 2013. “Rijksstudio: Make Your Own Masterpiece!” In Museums and the Web 2013: Proceedings, edited by Nancy Proctor and Rich Cherry. Portland, OR.
Hall, Mark, Eneko Agirre, Nikolaos Aletras, Runar Bergheim, Konstantinos Chandrinos, Paul Clough, Samuel Fernando, et al. 2012. “PATHS – Exploring Digital Cultural Heritage Spaces.” In Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries, edited by Panayiotis Zaphiris, George Buchanan, Edie Rasmussen, and Fernando Loizides, 7489:500–503. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer. index/0UG4X6381VH7Q783.pdf.
Hooper-Greenhill, E. 1992. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. Routledge.
———. 1994. “Museum Education: Past, Present and Future.” In Towards the Museum of the Future: New European Perspectives, edited by R Miles and L Zavala. Routledge.
Hoptman, G. 1992. “The Virtual Museum and Related Epistemological Concerns.” In Sociomedia. Multimedia, Hypermedia and the Social Construction of Knowledge, edited by E Barrett. MIT Press Cambridge, MA, USA.
Huizinga, Roy. 1971. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Beacon Press.
Lawson, Amanda. 2012. A Place for Art. University of Wollongong Press. uploads/book-35695.pdf.
Manovich, L. 2012. “Media Visualization.” In The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies. Wiley.
Manovich, Lev. 2011. “Media Visualization: Visual Techniques for Exploring Large Media Collections.” Media Studies Futures, no. June: 1–21. media_visualization.2011.pdf.
———. 2015. “Data Science and Digital Art History.” International Journal for Digital Art History, no. 1.
Marchionini, Gary. 2006. “Exploratory Search.” Communications of the ACM 49 (4). ACM: 41. doi:10.1145/1121949.1121979.
McCay-Peet, Lori, and Elaine Toms. 2011. “Measuring the Dimensions of Serendipity in Digital Environments.” Information Research 16 (3): 1–7.
———. 2013. “Proposed Facets of a Serendipitous Digital Environment Conceptualization of the Construct.” In IConference 2013 Proceedings, 688–91. doi:10.9776/13318.
Murray, Janet. 2012. Inventing the Medium. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
O’Day, Vicki L., and Robin Jeffries. 1993. “Orienteering in an Information Landscape.” In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’93, 438–45. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/169059.169365.
Outrata, Jan. 2013. “A Lattice-Free Concept Lattice Update Algorithm Based on FCbO.” In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Concept Lattices and Their Applications, edited by Manuel Ojeda-Aciego and Jan Outrata, 261-- 274. La Rochelle, France.
Pearce, S. 1994. “Thinking about Things.” In Interpreting Objects and Collections, edited by S Pearce. London: Routledge.
Ramsay, Stephen. 2010. “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around ; or What You Do with a Million Books.”
Ross, Max. 2004. “Interpreting the New Museology.” Museum and Society 2 (2): 84–103.
Ruffaldi, E., C. Evangelista, V. Neri, M. Carrozzino, and M. Bergamasco. 2008. “Design of Information Landscapes for Cultural Heritage Content.” In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts, 113–19.
Ruffaldi, Emanuele, Chiara Evangelista, Veronica Neri, Marcello Carrozzino, and Massimo Bergamasco. 2008. “Design of Information Landscapes for Cultural Heritage Content.” In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts, 113–19.
Samadani, Ramin, Suk Hwan Lim, and Dan Tretter. 2007. “Representative Image Thumbnails for Good Browsing.” In IEEE International Conference on Image Processing, 193–96.
Saquer, J, and J Deogun. 2001. “Concept Aproximations Based on Rough Sets and Similarity Measures.” International Journal of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science 11: 655–74.
Schweibenz, W. 1998. “The ‘Virtual Museum’: New Perspectives For Museums to Present Objects and Information Using the Internet as a Knowledge Base and Communication System.” In Knowledge Management Und Kommunikationssysteme, Workflow Management, Multimedia, Knowledge Transfer. Proceedings Des 6. Internationalen Symposiums F{ü}r Informationswissenschaft (ISI 1998), edited by H Zimmermann and B Schramm, 3–7.
Segel, Edward, and Jeffrey Heer. 2010. “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data.” IEEE Transactions on Visualization ization and Computer Graphicss 16 (6): 1139-- 1148.
Skov, Mette. 2009. “The Reinvented Museum : Exploring Information Seeking Behaviour in a Digital Museum Context.” Royal School of Library and Information Science.
Skov, Mette, and Peter Ingwersen. 2008. “Exploring Information Seeking Behaviour in a Digital Museum Context.” In Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Information Interaction in Context - IIiX ’08, 110. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1414694.1414719.
Smite, Rasa, Lev Manovich, and Smits Raitis. 2015. Data Drift. Archiving Media and Data Art in the 21st Century. RIXC.
Styliani, Sylaiou, Liarokapis Fotis, Kotsakis Kostas, and Patias Petros. 2009. “Virtual Museums, a Survey and Some Issues for Consideration.” Journal of Cultural Heritage 10 (4): 520–28. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2009.03.003.
Thudt, Alice, Uta Hinrichs, and Sheelagh Carpendale. 2012. “The Bohemian Bookshelf: Supporting Serendipitous Book Discoveries through Information Visualization.” In Proceedings of the 2012 ACM Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1461–70.
Toms, Elaine, and Lori McCay-Peet. 2009. “Chance Encounters in the Digital Library.” In International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries, 192–202. Springer.
Trant, J. 2009. “Tagging, Folksonomy and Art Museums: Results of Steve.Museum’s Research.”
Weinberger, D. 2005. “Taxonomies to Tags: From Trees to Piles of Leaves.” Release 1.0 23 (2).
Whitelaw, Mitchell. 2015. “Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections.” DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly 9 (1).
Whitelaw, Mitchell, and Sam Hinton. 2010. “CommonsExplorer.”
Wille, R. 2005. “Formal Concept Analysis as Mathematical Theory of Concepts and Concept Hierarchies.” In Formal Concept Analysis, edited by Bernhard Ganter, Gerd Stumme, and Rudolf Wille, 3626:47–70. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. http://dx.
Wille, Rudolph. 1999. “Conceptual Landscapes of Knowledge: A Pragmatic Paradigm of Knowledge Processing.” Edited by W. Gaul and H. Locarek-Junge. Classification in the Information Age, 344–56.
Wille, Rudolph, and Bernhard Ganter. 1999. Formal Concept Analysis: Mathematical Foundations. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Windhager, Florian, Paolo Federico, Günther Schreder, Katrin Glinka, and Marian Dörk. 2018. “Visualization of Cultural Heritage Collection Data: State of the Art and Future Challenges.” IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.
Wray, Tim, Peter Eklund, and Karl Kautz. 2013. “Pathways through Information Landscapes: Alternative Design Criteria for Digital Art Collections.” In ICIS 2013 Proceedings. Milan, Italy.
data visualization; collections; interactive; cultural heritage; museum; formal concept analysis
How to Cite
Cole , Richard J., Frithjof Dau, Jon Ducrou, Peter W. Eklund, and Tim Wray. 2019. “Navigating Context, Pathways and Relationships in Museum Collections Using Formal Concept Analysis”. International Journal for Digital Art History, no. 4 (December), 5.13-5.27.