Reusing cultural heritage digital resources in teaching
Sapienza University of Rome
Italian of Conservation Scientist
I.C. “Val Maggia”
Abstract— In recent years many projects have applied
technology, as Linked Data, and new modality of digital
museum resources access as a personalized way to meet
the knowledge and interests needs of different users.
Furthermore, current studies engage users in a new way of
taking part in cultural heritage. This paper presents a
framework to search, download and re-use digital resource
of cultural heritage by teachers for developing their
multimedia lessons. Open access data modality, tools for
sharing museum resource and to make multimedia lesson
are developed. In this way the museum object becomes a
tool for teaching and educational environments will be
created to improve engagement and student learning.
Designing a learning repository that manages and shares
various information of different museum catalogues and
an annotation tool to museum objects are ongoing to allow
teachers and students to increase cultural heritage
contents and to improve relationship between museum
staff and education context.
Index Terms—Cultural heritage, Learning Repository,
Semantic web, Linked open data.
In recent years many projects have developed online
catalogues and repositories to manage and promote cultural
heritage. After the massive digitalization of cultural heritage
objects it is becoming important to understand how best to use
the large amount of information. New technology can be useful
to rethink access to cultural heritage digital resources and their
use or re-use by different publics such as teachers, students or
Linked open data technology has suggested an opportunity
to organize and promote heterogeneous content within different
catalogues . In 2010, The Polo Museale Sapienza (PMS) has
launched a project to adopt linked open data to promote and to
facilitate access to its cultural heritage. Over the years twenty
museums of Sapienza University of Rome have stored their
object information such as image, description, historical period,
material and so on in catalogues. Each museum has adopted a
different database schema related to different disciplines.
While the information system for managing digital
collections facilitates administration and accessibility by
internal staff or researchers, this modality may not be useful for
teachers and pupils or the public. Furthermore, not all
information concerning museum objects can be shared. For
these reasons the need arose to adopt technology that makes
the different local databases interoperable and creates a unique
access point to all PMS museum resources.
The PMS has launched a project to develop linked data
repository to enhance teaching and learning activities. The new
platform aims to promote cooperation between museum staff
and teachers to integrate cultural heritage information and
educational materials. The PMS is part of the European Digital
Library project .
In addition the PMS has made available some contents
related to museum objects to teachers for reusing and re-
contextualizing within their lessons. Personalized path to
access PMS catalogue, tools for downloading images and
information of museum objects on own pc by teachers and
students and CMS to build hypermedia lessons are developed.
II. USE AND REUSE DIGITAL HERITAGE
The re-use of digital content is an essential part of the
Digital Agenda for Europe. Several activities are already
stimulating the re-use of cultural heritage in order to
demonstrate the social and economic value of cultural content.
The online accessibility of cultural material will make it
possible for citizens throughout Europe to access and use it for
leisure, studies or work. Moreover, the digitised material can
be reused – for both commercial and non-commercial
purposes – for uses such as developing learning and
educational content, documentaries, tourism applications,
games, animations and design tools, provided that this is done
with full respect for copyright and related rights .
Recent studies have focused on the use or reuse of digital
resources with specific reference to the cultural heritage field.
Cultural heritage has been a privileged application domain
for personalization for many years and recent museum
research also acknowledges the need for personalized,
individual support . In addition, museums have developed
a communication model to allow:
•Communicate effectively with their audience
•Collect information and feedbacks from their target
•Provide patterns to manage problems and solutions.
Furthermore, they have taken on more articulate roles and
functions in relation to territory and visitors . The goal of
these institutions is to develop new ways for promoting
scientific culture in order to meet a growing demand for
interdisciplinary teaching, based on new learning and
communication forms with the aid of available technologies.
Museums such as galleries, libraries and archives across
the world are beginning to explore the added value of sharing
data resource following the so-called Linked Open Data
(LOD) principles. Cultural resources can share two categories
of 'open': open data and open content. Open data refer to
information such as thesauri and descriptive metadata. Content
is work such as videos or photos. Combined, open data and
open content are important to build a Knowledge society .
There are several motivations for an open way to make
cultural resources such as metadata and objects available.
Firstly, open access mode increases the usage of the
collections. This helps to direct users towards online content
and it enables new learning way that can only become possible
with open data, which make collections more meaningful and
relevant for end-users.
This allows the creation of new services and supports a
creative re-use of material in new innovative and collaborative
III. RE-USING DIGITAL OBJECTS IN TEACHING
In the classroom, textbooks and some supplementary
materials are usually used for studying culture and history as
well as language, arts and science. Even though such materials
are well-organized according to their corresponding curricula,
they lack enough information for pupils to appreciate cultural
objects and become more familiar with them .
Digital resources can provide educators with a practical
tool through which to structure engaging learning experiences
and meaningful personalisation strategies, supporting
collaborative learner engagement .
There are many theories on learning that have been applied
to build a system for the development of activities for
students and, more in general, in the context of lifelong
learning, such as the theory of Kolb , the use of which can
be applied to museum objects .
New paths and laboratories have been built by curators
within museums and a teaching space has been devoted on
the museum WEB site. Virtual educational areas provide
games, customization paths and Learning Object (LO) and
Different mode and contents have been provided
opportunity to access a reserved area for teachers to make
online lessons integrated by museum objects, lessons
related to the course of study , interactive games ,
personalized virtual tour , developing a network of
cultural heritage object repositories for the educational
purpose  and a recent application is Rijskstudio, an
innovative digital application that makes a large part of the
museum’s collection available to all, absolutely free of charge
IV. THE PROJECT
The project aims to test a new teaching methodology
which involves the production of curriculum related e-books
using non-traditional content, integrating digital cultural
heritage resources. The PMS , with its twenty museums,
aims to promote activities in educational field and to connect
its cultural heritage to schools through technology. Every year
many primary school classes visit Sapienza museums in
accordance with their study programs. Different initiatives are
ongoing such as education tours and experimental laboratories
for promoting cultural heritage. In this context The PMS with
“Via Val Maggia” primary School in Rome have launched a
project to use museums objects in teaching.
Allowing accessibility to objects stored in museums is
important for cultural dissemination, thus on-line catalogues
have been developed . The curator of each museum strives
to build an Information System for managing museum objects
Different local databases have been designed for
administrative management and research. The PMS has
recently studied the possibility of creating a single access
point for all catalogues through Internet.
The project of revising the catalogue structure uses the
criteria set out by the National Committee of Catalogs and by
sharing the museum’s heritage with other institutions. The
PMS is a partner of Linked heritage EU Project. For these
reasons the need arose to adopt technology that makes the
different local databases interoperable and creates a unique
access point to all PMS museum resources.
PMS Repository was developed using LIDO schema for
delivering metadata, for use in a variety of online services,
from an organization’s online collections database to portals
of aggregated resources, as well as exposing, sharing and
connecting data on the web .
The research team of project, consisting of museums and
technology experts from university and primary school
teachers, has analyzed the possibility of supporting teaching
activities with multimedia technology and digital resources
accessible through a personalized path.
The personalized catalogue consists of content and images
of museum objects chosen by the individual user. After an
initial review of the tools available to the school, in this case
IWBs, computers and an Internet connection, and teachers
activities an application was designed to allow teachers to
build a personalized path through the web access to PMS
catalogue and to download onto own computer images and
information of museum objects, to be used in the production
of multimedia lessons, according to a communication strategy
based on a continuous process of collaboration between the
museum and the teacher , .
A personalized access tool to Repository has been designed
to allow teachers to build a reserved area to store the content
and images related to the museum objects chosen. This digital
content may be used to describe subject teaching through class
lessons (the demo of customization path is available on
The personalized catalogue has been stored in xml format
based on the RDF model. Teachers will be able download this
file onto their computer. The xml file includes metadata based
on Linked Open Data technology to allow access to object
information, museum WEB Site, image by Hypermedia lesson.
<museum>Erbario - Museo di Botanica</museum>
<name>Campanula persicifolia L.</name>
This tool has been integrated with another one developed
by Sapienza University, ASD (Accessible Site Developer),
which automatically builds a hypertext from contents,
accessible via web.
The CMS ASDscuola editor allows insert inside the
XHTML page this digital museum object information chosen
previously by user Fig. 1.
In this way, teachers will be able to explain the lesson with
museum objects images and information re-contextualized.
For example teacher can reuse an ancient pot from Museum of
Near East in lesson on ancient Kitchen, so teacher will be able
to adopt methodology to actualize the ancient time connected
with everyday life. Fig. 2
Furthermore tool inserts card object and museum links to
allow the student to look for other contents and so develop his
curiosity and improve his knowledge. Following, teacher can
take their pupils to the museum where they will find the
objects previously observed during the lesson.
Fig. 1. ASDscuola Editor
Fig. 2. Hypermedia lesson
Pupils can build up reports by associating theoretical
knowledge with museum objects, after visiting the museum.
Thanks to the Project, teachers worked on school premises
consulting the volumes in the library and using multimedia
facilities. After searching for the information material was
surfed online within the virtual paths offered by the Museums
to track down useful objects to implement the contents in
order to create a customized e-lessons, a container of
explanatory panels and virtual museum objects relating to the
subject matter. With the aid of specific software, each teacher
will be able to make a hypertext with the support of images
from the museums of Sapienza catalogue.
The teachers were created hypertext on the Scales, on
Temperature, on Light, on Works of Art reusing museum
objects from Chemistry and Herbarium museums of
Results and hypertext of project made by teachers are
available via website  .
In the next visits to museums students will see objects that
have already got to know, placed within the hypertext. In this
way the students can implement the associative and
experiential activities for the improvement of their cognitive
The student, starting from the previous experiences, will
consolidate the knowledge gained during the teacher frontal
lessons, will verify the information, will formulate hypotheses
and he reaches skills through interaction with the museum
objects, building something new and exciting that he himself
have helped to achieve. Students are not only active, but also
Concluded the path / process of building the multimedia
way, the student will be able to check the acceptability of their
own thinking through the guided visit and direct
experimentation in museum labs.
VI. CONCLUSION AND NEW PERSPECTIVE
New communication strategy, learning theory and
technologies can be useful to develop a relationship between
museum and school.
The project results have shown that digital resources and
technology tools can be used as new teaching aids to develop
a new learning environment, using collaborative and
cooperative learning modality.
Often, the language and terminology adopted by museum
staff to describe cultural heritage is not easily accessible and
understandable for the general public or teachers and pupils.
To solve this problem technologies can provide opportunities
to rethink the implementation and presentation of contents.
A new project will aim to build a framework, using a
Semantic Web, to develop annotation tool to increase digital
object descriptions by teachers and students. In this way
the appropriate Web Site will be useful to promote a virtual
learning environment based on collaborative work to share
content and LO among many school.
This idea will allow encourage museum visits and
improve the relationship between museum and educational
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