In recent years, heritage institutions have invested much time and resources into digitizing their collections, and in making them accessible and stimulating various kinds of reuse. Yet despite considerable success, a great deal of access and reuse potential is currently still left unexploited.
One reason for this is the focus so far on (linked) semantic descriptors. Not only do these restrict users to searching collections by way of prior interpretations, they also ignore features that are essential to their experience of heritage objects. One set of characteristics that are insufficiently captured by descriptive metadata are sensory ones, e.g. visual features (such as light and colour, shape, or movement). Another reason is that access to collections has focused primarily on the searchability and retrieval of single items, while lasting heritage experiences, but also innovative research, require methods for explorative browsing that draw on the relations between discrete items and entire collections.
The use of sensory features, combined with possibilities for explorative browsing, would provide a boost to the practice of those users who seek to creatively repurpose collections: artists, the creative industries, but also researchers. The SEMIA project’s objective is to establish how these groups can explore, navigate and repurpose a specific subset of heritage objects – moving images – by using tools for the analysis (software) and visualization (interfaces) of visual features and relations. In doing so, it will make use of two heritage collections: EYE’s Desmet collection (silent films) and Sound and Vision’s NTS/NOS News broadcasts (1956-present).
The Sensory Moving Image Archive: Boosting Creative Reuse for Artistic Practice and Research is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). It runs from September 2017 to September 2019.