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Jewish Bubbles

Jewish Bubbles:

Multi-viewpoint ontologies as a new paradigm for investigating minorities’ cultural heritage: The case of the global Jewish minority

Led by: Prof. Zhitomirsky-Geffet and Dr. Inna Kizhner from Haifa University and in collaboration with Mrs. Sara Minster and JHN (Jewish Heritage Network)

Funded by The Israel Science Foundation

Existing knowledge of the culture of ethnic minorities, and in particular of Jewish culture, is diverse and multi-viewpoint in essence. While some viewpoints are dominant, others are underrepresented or concealed. However, existing ontologies and representational approaches do not convey multiple, sometimes opposing, viewpoints. Thus, it has been recently recognized by scholars that modern knowledge organization schemes for cultural heritage should be multi-perspective and multivocal to provide useful and complete representation of knowledge for different communities of users. Therefore, in this study, we introduce a new paradigm for investigating minorities’ cultural heritage based on a multi-viewpoint ontology that organizes and integrates the data and conveys a diversity of external and internal views of the minority cultures. Such an ontology will present a comprehensive representation of the minority’s culture as viewed through the lens of various majority cultures and its own internal views, which will in turn enable quantitative analysis of the characteristic features of the different collections and perspectives at scale. 

As a use case in this study, we will explore the Jewish minority cultural heritage, as ever since the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE, Jewish communities have been established in numerous countries across the world. The multi-viewpoint ontology will be built from metadata of two types of online museum collections from all over the globe: large national museums and Jewish museums that reflect the external and internal views of the minority’s culture, respectively. To align various standards of tagging, indexing, and cataloguing of Jewish cultural heritage, the relevant data will be automatically extracted from the selected museum databases and mapped to a unified ontological scheme based on Wikidata and the diversified knowledge organization model introduced in our previous studies. The constructed ontology will serve for a systematic comparative analysis of the representation characteristics (geographies, periods, types, persons, communities, languages, subjects) in different countries and for internal vs. external views. It will allow us to investigate: 1) common popular representation patterns and country/perspective-specific representation patterns; and 2) inter-relationships and mutual influences between the cultures of the Jewish minority and ethnic majorities of the different countries. Since the Jewish diaspora is culturally heterogeneous, as Jewish communities that settled in various regions for centuries developed their own sub-cultures, there may be multiple internal views of the minority’s culture as well. Hence, it will also be interesting to examine the differences and similarities between the data representation of the various Jewish museums located in different countries. In addition, each collection will be evaluated in terms of the representational balance and diversity relative to the other collections, based on the distribution analysis of ontological data and the ethical evaluation framework for knowledge organization systems proposed in our previous study. Including various viewpoints and voices in the representation of ethnic minorities may contribute to resolving the problem of biases and underrepresentation of many aspects of minorities’ culture in museum online collections and consequently lead to the creation of museums that “foster diversity and communicate ethically,” as stated in the ICOM museum’s definition. The constructed ontology will be openly available online in the Judaica Europeana website and may serve as a research tool for experts in the fields of Jewish cultural heritage, history, and sociology, as well as for educational purposes and search by the general public.


  1. Zhitomirsky-Geffet, M. and Minster, S. (2022). Cultural information bubbles: a new approach for automatic ethical evaluation of digital artwork collections based on Wikidata. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. Oxford Academic.

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