Notes on CIDOC-CRM

Oreste Signore, <>

Summer School LDA
Libraries in the digital age: linked data technologies for a global knowledge sharing
Pula (Cagliari), 29 agosto - 1° settembre 2016

Documento pdf:

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Thinking about Dublin Core

Dublin Core: a sample

Consider the case (shorthand notation for DC)



dc:title=Madonna del cardellino

The implicit meaning is:

Dublin Core: some limitations

We specify some properties of an object

We can add controlled vocabularies to be sure that we specify correct terms for creator or subject, but only humans can:

These are typical examples of spatio-temporal reasoning

Information integration

Information Integration

Standard vocabularies
  • definition difficult and time consuming
  • once defined, standards don't adapt well
  • people don't implement standards correctly anyway
Common schema
  • in principle the simplest way
  • different schemas, different cultural traditions
  • failure!
Metadata level
  • a typical example: Dublin Core
  • the number of metadata vocabularies will continue to grow (M. Doerr)
  • doubtful metadata vocabularies can exploit the full richness of possible associations

Metadata vs ontology

A base for understanding

Core metadata
  • intended for integration
  • created, edited, viewed by humans
  • human factors play a primary role
Core ontology
  • underlying formal model for tools that integrate source data and perform a variety of extended functions
  • higher levels of complexity are tolerable
  • completeness and logical correctness are the driving forces
  • base for deriving knowledge

CIDOC-CRM is a formal ontology which can be used to perform reasoning.

Motivations for CIDOC CRM

(quoted from M. Doerr)


CIDOC CRM is ...

For information about the CIDOC CRM and related work please visit the corresponding CIDOC CRM website (new site:
The CRM is also available as ISO 21127.

Role of CIDOC

CIDOC CRM terminology (partial)

Working Document 6.2.2

CIDOC CRM terminology (partial)

Properties can have properties, such as in the case of an Activity (E7) carried out (P14) by an Actor (E39).

CIDOC CRM: reasoning about spatial information


CIDOC CRM: reasoning about temporal information


CIDOC CRM: termini ante quem post quem

A sample

Epitaphios GE34604


Formal description using CIDOC-CRM

Epitaphios GE34604 (Entity Iconographic Object)
                is identified by
                        TA 959a (entity Object Identifier)
                        GE 34604 (entity Object Identifier)
                preferred identifier is
                        GE 34604 (entity Object Identifier)
        has type
                ecclesiastical embroidery
                liturgical cloth
        current owner
                Museum Benaki (Legal Body)
        has type
                private museum
        has contact points
                <Ifigenia Dionissiadu> (entity Contact Point)
                Koumbari Street 1, Athens (entity Address)

(1998 Martin Doerr and Ifigenia Dionissiadou)

RDF+OWL are fit for the job!

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-7"?>
<rdf:RDF xml:lang="en" 
   xmlns:crm="cd://#" xml:base="//">
        <crm:E84.Information_Carrier rdf:about="Epitaphios GE34604">
                        <crm:E55.Type rdf:about="ecclesiastical embroidery">
                        <crm:E55.Type rdf:about="liturgical cloth">
                        <crm:E40.Legal_Body rdf:about="Museum Benaki">
                        <crm:E53.Place rdf:about="drawer 8 / case 27 / room 6 / floor sub 1 / new wing">
                                        <crm:E55.Type rdf:about="drawer">

As a collection of triples

Still in machine domain! Albeit simpler to read, such visualization is still not friendly to humans
(rdf:#type is a shorthand for:

subject (or resource) predicate (or property) value (or object)
Epitaphios GE34604 rdf:#type cidoc:#E84.Information_Carrier
ecclesiastical embroidery rdf:#type cidoc:#E55.Type
Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P2F.hastype ecclesiastical embroidery
liturgical cloth rdf:#type cidoc:#E55.Type
Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P2F.hastype liturgical cloth
Museum Benaki rdf:#type cidoc:#E40.Legal_Body
Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P52F.has_current_owner Museum Benaki
Creation of Epitaphios GE34604 rdf:#type cidoc:#E12.Production_Event
handwork rdf:#type cidoc:#E55.Type
Creation of Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P2F.has_type handwork
none rdf:#type cidoc:#E52.Time-Span
none cidoc:#P81F.ongoing_throughout "1682"@en
none cidoc:#P82F.at_some_time_within "1682"@en
Creation of Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P4F.has_time-span none
Istanbul rdf:#type cidoc:#E53.Place
Creation of Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P7F.took_place_at Istanbul
Epitaphios GE34604 cidoc:#P108B.was_produced_by Creation of Epitaphios GE34604
... ... ...

A graph visualization


A graph visualization(2)


An example in OWL

The statement
The painting of the Sistine Chapel was carried out by Michelangelo Buonarroti
Abstracting from the statement
  • The painting of the Sistine Chapel (the subject) is an (instance of) activity
  • carried out by is a predicate
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti is an (instance of) Person
In OWL (conceptually)
the paintingOfSistineChapel (E7.Activity) was carried_out_by (P14F) MichelangeloBuonarroti (E21.Person)
In OWL (graphically)
In OWL (XML Syntax)
  • Terrific!
  • but suitable for machines, harmful for human beings!


Thanks for your attention


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