Exploring the Information Space of Cultural Collections Using Formal Concept Analysis

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Within the cultural informatics community, there is a strong desire to mine and understand relationships within and among collections of objects. In this paper we describe a case study of applied Formal Concept Analysis to cultural heritage and art collections. We base our inter-disciplinary research on our development of a navigation framework that drives the Virtual Museum of the Pacific – an FCA-based application that employs a conceptual neighbourhood paradigm for browsing concept lattices. We also utilise a feature called conceptual similarity that allows users to search for similar objects and hence promote knowledge discovery of the objects within the collection. We describe how we can construct a meaningful information space derived from museum documentation while considering complexity and associated performance issues of large formal contexts. We report the resulting lattice structure, user experience and relevance of our FCA-based application in browsing and exploring objects from a cultural domain. Our research is an applied case study of term extraction and context creation based on data-sets from the Australian Museum and Powerhouse Museum collections.