Issue 587: Principles for Modelling Ontologies: A Short Reference Guide [introduction and examples for didactic purposes]

Starting Date: 
Working Group: 

In the 52nd joint meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9; 45th FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting; upon discussing Issue 351, the SIG resolved to start a new issue where to discuss how to enhance the processes defined in the document by adding real use-case examples of bottom-up modelling, grounded on empirical evidence and data re-expressed into modelling constructs. Another topic that will have to be addressed is how to publish this text, make it more visible (not just on the CIDOC-CRM website)

HW: TV, GH, MD, FB to work on this issue for the next SIG.


The document can be found here (under Resources/Techincal Papers)


February 2022 

In the 53rd CIDOC CRM & 46th FRBRoo SIG meeting, the Sig discussed the proposal for a reference guide concerning Modelling ontologies (HW by MD & DO) –a guideline into the steps one must follow to propose a modelling construct, namely: (1) a “how to model” question, (2) the development of a modelling construct that extends or modifies CRM (base and family models), (3) introducing a new construct into the CRM [see here for details].

Additionally, there is a proposal on how to ground the need for a completely new extension and what the steps towards its definition should be.


  • The point of this issue was to provide examples that showcase how the principles should be used when one is creating a modelling construct. There are none throughout the document. The example would be like “How to model Observable Situations?”.
    • This proposal is part of answering the issue, but also proposes what the overall process should be.
      • HW –FORTH: Provide examples from the SeaLit project.
      • The “How to model such and such?” is mainly what the Sig list is all about. It is more important to define what the characteristics of useful examples of individuals (vs. categorical ones).
    • Change the content of the cell Example: “how to model the modification of an art object by an artful contribution, possibly by a different artist?” into Example: “how to model the modification of the engraving plate x by engraver y, possibly by a different engraver z?”
  • In relation to Issue 538 that raises the question how to document changes implemented in the model: keeping track of the questions a proposed model answers should be the general practice.  
  • Pg.1: the document needs a general introduction for the two parts of the document, namely:
    • New Modelling Construct Proposal Checklist and Procedure
    • New Extension Proposal Checklist and Procedure
  • re. modelling extensions to the CRM: trying to avoid overlap btw two models does not amount to keeping their scopes disjoint but trying to avoid a situation in which it is open to debate what model a given class or property should appear under.
  • re. different kinds of research questions –not all questions raised in the course of a modelling project are helpful or relevant to guide the modelling process. Some are at a macro-level, some others at a micro-level. The micro-level questions is easier to address.
    • if the research questions that guided modelling decisions in SeaLit can be shared (no restrictions), then they should be published on the CRM website.
    • theory on micro-macro level questions: i.e., which ones are more crucial to create a conceptual model? In practice, the micro-level questions were more useful to derive modelling constructs (micro-structures taken together can completely answer a macro-level question)
      • e.g.: “What are the living standards of sailors?” translates into variables (a) salary and overall income, (b) sailors having shares in the ship or not, etc.
      • needs to be further expanded.


  • accept the document in principle (in the sense that it addresses important issues and it needs to be further developed).
  • HW to AK & PF to offer a selection of the research questions used for the SeaLit Project that are to be shared through the website.
  • HW to AF & FM to provide examples and research questions for CRMtex
  • HW: DO to write the overall introduction; SdS to proofread it; EC to review it from a newcomer’s perspective.
  • HW: TV to reference the document with the Principles for Modelling Ontologies
  • WS: to test the workflow (follow it in producing an ontology that he's working on and send feedback).
  • Start a new issue re. where to publish research questions on the website

The document has implications for issue 538 as well. Extract from the guideline the processes that need to be documented, and inform 538 with them.


May 2022

Post by Athina Kritsotaki (24 November 2022)

Dear all,

Please find homework regarding the research queries prepared by me and Pavlos  for Issue  587 here:


In the 55th joint meeting of the CIDOC CRM and SO/TC46/SC4/WG9; 48th FRBR/LRMoo SIG meeting, AK & PF presented HW to the SIG, namely: the set of research questions collected in the course of the project SeaLiT, that were provided by project partners as things they would like to query the available data sources about; and the formalization of these research questions in a graphical query style that could be directly translated into SPARQL queries.
This resource demonstrates how the questions relate to the ontology developed, and that the ontology is adequate to query the data for these things. It is relevant as a methodological tool for bottom-up modelling. They should appear as examples complementing the introduction of the Modelling Principles that now stands alone as a quick reference guide (see CIDOC CRM site, under Resources\Technical Papers).
A parallel work was reported by AG for the Notre Dame restauration project that she has been working on. These questions (in French) can be shared with the CRM SIG. AG plans to translate the questions in English and she wishes to present them at the SIG (in the fashion that AK & PF presented the research questions collected in the context of SeaLiT)


Publish collections of research questions as a resource for the CIDOC model. People can look at the research questions that have motivated the development of the ontology.

HW to AK & PF:

  • to provide a  provenance statement for research questions provided by historians in the context of SeaLiT, 
  • share the SEALIT research questions through the website (according to the decisions in issue 601)
  • selection of a subgroup of research questions and graphical queries to be explained (in a digestible format)
  • eventually put the SPARQL queries on the site.

HW to AG: supply research questions provided by conservators/architects in the context of Notre Dame de Paris restauration (French and English, provenance statement) 

Belval, December 2022

In the 56th joint meeting of the CIDOC CRM and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9 &49th FRBR/LRMoo SIG, the SIG reviewed the provenance statement for the research questions that motivated the modelling decisions implemented in the course of the project SEALIT. The text can be found in in the attached document.

The provenance statement is supposed to appear in a separate section of the site, called “Methodology and research questions supporting ontology building”, found under “Use & Learn” (see issue 601). A mockup of the designated subsite can be found here.

The provenance statement is intended to head a section consisting of the research questions for SeaLiT (presented at the 55th CIDOC CRM SIG meeting), the queries (demonstrated in Day 1 of the meeting) and the sparql queries they represent (HW that PF is currently working on).

Discussion points:

  • The section “Research questions in support of ontology building” now lacks a proper description.
    • AG shared a presentation about the purpose and overall utility of sharing contextualized research questions that motivate particular modeling decisions in the course of a project. The statement is in French, she can have it translated into English and share it with the SIG.


  • Publish mockup page for research questions under Use&Learn\Methodology for the time being. Update it as more material becomes available.
  • HW to AG & PF to provide the statement for the overall purpose of sharing research questions

Crete, May 2023