“Exhibition Picasso 1936”: a tool between archiving, the semantic web and data visualisation

In 2011, the Museu Picasso organised the documentary exhibition “Picasso 1936. Traces of an exhibition“. On the occasion of this exhibition, which, using technological resources, narrated how Picasso’s exhibition, which took place in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid in 1936, was conceived and made a reality, the ontology was elaborated with the domain Picasso Exhibition of 1936 In recent years, the Museum has worked on turning this ontology into a research and knowledge tool that can be consulted on the website.

Exposició «Picasso 1936. Empremtes d’una exposició» Barcelona, 2011 Fotografia, Juan Ávila. Museu Picasso, Barcelona.Exhibition “Picasso 1936. Traces of an exhibition”. Barcelona, 2011. Photography, Juan Ávila. Museu Picasso, Barcelona


Taking the IT meaning of ontology as an explicit formalisation of a shared conceptual scheme, the one we are dealing with, Picasso Exhibition of 1936, has been constructed with the aim of conceptualizing the significance of the exhibition of Picasso’s works that could be seen in 1936, and of understanding the artist’s relationship with Barcelona and Spain. This ontology – halfway between archiving, the semantic web and the visualisation of data – has been carried out on the basis of experimentation, by putting into practice new ways of formalising and structuring the information and documentation which has allowed us to once again represent the event of 1936 and, finally, to generate and share new knowledge about Picasso.

Visualització de l’ontologia «Exposició Picasso 1936» contruïda per a l’exposició de 2011. Barcelona, 2011Visualisation of the ontology “Exhibition Picasso 1936” contructed for the exhibition of 2011. Barcelona, 2011. Photography Juan Ávila. Photographic Archive of Barcelona


The ontology identifies in detail and a certain formal rigor all the agents (items) that participated in the 1936 exhibition, groups them into categories and, finally, establishes relationships between the members (items) in such a way that the human and social fabric emerges that made the 1936 exhibition possible. In order to establish these relationships, an essential element in the construction of such a tool, it has been fundamental and, possibly it has been the most complex process, to define some very precise criteria, given that they condition the optimal result of the ontology because it shapes its taxonomy. That’s why formal or structural relationships have been determined in the context of the domain and not of content, thus avoiding interpretations. In addition, to further profile the relationships, elements such as the intensity of the relationship or the degree of attraction between the members have been used.

Visualització de l’ontologia «Exposició Picasso 1936» contruïda per a l’exposició de 2011. Barcelona, 2011 Fotografia Juan Ávila. Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona.Visualisation of the ontology “Exhibition Picasso 1936” contructed for the exhibition of 2011. Barcelona, 2011. Photography Juan Ávila. Photographic Archive of Barcelona


The teamwork and work in progress between the Museum team and the technical team of programmers has been essential to balance theory and practice and achieve the desired results, as the practical application of what theoretically seemed appropriate to us not only it allowed us to ratify its suitability, but it also showed us the way to achieve our purposes.

A very important step in this evolutionary work has been the selection of the form of visualisation. We have opted for a dynamic and attractive visibility where the icons of each category of items are formally different in shapes and colours and are in constant motion emulating a physical system. For example, the people category is represented by a round, grey icon or the location category by a hexagonal and orange icon. When the users select an item they can move it around the screen so that they drag all their relationships with it, making it easier to view. It is also easy to recognise each type of relationship, as they are identified with different coloured lines that incorporate a small triangle where the name of the relationship can be read. Furthermore, in the form of a guide, a menu with all types of relationships is displayed at the bottom right of the screen. As a complement, and to enrich the ontology, a small descriptive text accompanied by an image has been added to all the items.

Ontologia «Exposició Picasso 1936»:Ontologia en línia «Exposició Picasso 1936»


Finally, and with the aim of facilitating the understanding of the ontology, different scenes or visualisations have been predetermined that allow the relations established in that context to be exclusively contemplated: the artistic and social environment of Picasso, exhibited works, geographic network, social network, text editing, correspondence and epistolary relations. This menu appears at the top left of the screen.

The ontology with the domain “Picasso Exhibition of 1936” is the culmination of the research and dissemination work on the Picasso exhibition of 1936 and has become a tool for managing and visualizing the documentation to re-represent the event and share knowledge. It is our desire to make it grow with the incorporation of new items and new relationships as the research progresses.



Sílvia Domènech

Head of the Research Centre


 The ontology “Picasso Exhibition of 1936

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