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This paper describes the design and implementation through prototyping of the architecture of a system for browsing and retrieving museum information based on concepts, keywords and contents. The work is part of a project funded by the Chinese Education Ministry and the aim is to integrate information from a large number of local museum resources and to provide versatile access to digitalized information on antique collections of the museums. Ontology for the museum domain, based on the CIDOC concept reference model, is being developed as a semantic layer of the architecture. The challenges of developing such a global ontology model and a mapping mechanism between the global schema and data sources of local museums are discussed. Web services technology is employed to integrate heterogeneous and distributed data sources of local museums. An ontology and view based approach is adopted to the design and implementation of a user interface. This allows navigation through the semantic layer, display of multimedia representations and textual information of antiques in appropriate viewers and the invocation of conventional keyword and content based searching. Experimentations with our prototype have demonstrated that this architecture is stable and efficient.