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OpenGLAM structure and Working Group

Joris Pekel - February 27, 2014 in Featured, Front Page, News, Working Group

The OpenGLAM initiative has been around now for more than two years. In this period we have advocated for more open data in the cultural heritage sector in a variety of ways. In this blog post I want to give you an overview of the structure of OpenGLAM and of our different activities we organise with the network.

openglam logo

OpenGLAM was set up as an initiative of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The aim of the initiative was to bring together people from a variety of different organisations, institutions and networks that share a similar set of principles and aims. We therefore work together with representatives from the Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons, the Internet Archive, people working at museums and libraries, open data advocates and much more.

The public side of OpenGLAM mainly lives on our blog and Twitter account. More in depth discussions are taking place on the public Mailing List. On the website we try to provide as much information as possible around the topic of open data in the cultural sector by showing best practices of open institutions in the Open Collections sections, explain what it means to be an ‘Open GLAM’ with the OpenGLAM Principles and provide Documentation for further reading.

Besides this more public side, we also have an Advisory Board with high profile thinkers in the open cultural heritage domain. They help us decide on our course and address important issues such as the recent discussion about adding open Creative Commons licenses to Public Domain material.

Finally we have a Working Group which consists out of active volunteers from a variety of domains. The Working Group has become the core of the OpenGLAM initiative and meets virtually on a monthly basis to discuss relevant topics, share news and updates and take actions that benefit the adoption of open data in the cultural sector. This has for example resulted in two successful cultural heritage topic streams at the annual conferences organised by the Open Knowledge Foundation, active discussions with a variety of cultural institutions on why and how to open up their data, and recently the OpenGLAM benchmark survey was started that aims to get more data about the adoption of open data principles in the heritage sector around the world.

The Working Group has established itself in several local Open Knowledge Foundation local groups, as well as OpenGLAM ambassadors to serve as the local point of contact in their area. The full list of local groups and ambassadors can be found here. All our meeting notes are made available to the public so if you want to get an idea abut what is being discussed have a look here.

We always invite new people to join the Working Group and help spread the word. Don’t worry if you are new to the field, we gladly bring you up to speed. More information about joining the OpenGLAM working group can be found in this document. If you want more information about the OpenGLAM initiative, the Working Group, or join us, please get in touch!

Highlights of the OpenGLAM Poland conference

Joris Pekel - November 6, 2013 in Events/Workshops, Featured

Last month, the very first OpenGLAM conference was organised in Warsaw by Wikimedia Polska in collaboration with Centrum Cyfrowe and modern art gallery Zacheta. This event brought together many representatives from the Polish GLAM sector and a variety of people who work to get more cultural data and content available for anyone for re-use.

The timing of this event could not have been better. Exactly two years earlier the global OpenGLAM initiative was launched at the annual Creative Commons summit, also held in Warsaw. It was therefore also a great honour that I could open the second day of the conference with a keynote.

OpenGLAM Poland 2013 By Polimerek (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Day one

During the first day, all presentations were given by Polish presenters about recent developments in the cultural sector related to open data. Due to a fantastic translation service the people from outside Poland were still able to follow everything, and even participate in the discussions. Many aspects of ‘accessibility’ were addressed. Not only the fact that true open access means that information and content needs to be available for anyone without any restrictions, but also in a format that can be picked up by software for the visually impaired for example.

During the day there was a really interesting panel discussion about digitising contemporary art and the difficulties that come along with it. First of all there was the problem of old Betamax video tapes without proper labels. This made it very hard to pick and find the interesting content to digitise, or to simply know what was being shown. After the digitisation – which required special digitisation machines – the issues with intellectual property rights became apparent and even when it was possible to give people free access to view, re-use was restricted. Although the intentions of the project participants were great, the Wikimedians in the room had to point out that this material can not be considered completely ‘Open’ and ready to go up on Wikipedia, as all the content there has to be open according to the Open Definition. This shows the importance of working together with the cultural sector to overcome these limitations of copyright. The intention to open up collections is definitely there from all sides, but vague and outdated copyright law makes that a very burdensome and often impossible task.

Day 2

On the second day a number of international speakers were invited to share their thoughts and experiences with the Polish audience. The program was nicely set up in a way that it started with a high level overview about open culture data and the vision, and zoomed in on hands-on projects that made a big difference. I had the honour to kick off the day where I discussed different reasons why to open up your data and content as an institution, what the obstacles are, and what the OpenGLAM initiative and the Europeana Foundation does to overcome these.

John Anderson from Wikimedia Sweden connected Europeana and the Wikimedia Foundation nicely with each other by showing how the two projects have been working together and why it works so well to connect the cultural professionals Europeana of the Europeana Network with the community of Wikimedia.

Axel Petterson, also from Wikimedia Sweden, explained why and how people working at cultural institutions should collaborate with Wikimedia. This benefits both the users as they get access to high quality trusted content, as well as the institutions who reach out to a massive new audience.

We slowly zoomed further in on projects on the ground with Barbara Fischer from Wikimedia Deutschland highlighting a few of the visits that Wikimedians made to cultural institutions and excavation sites to digitise the material and publish it on Wikimedia for re-use.

GLAM on Tour Hongkong with notes

Vassia Atanassova showed how the collaboration of just one person with a local institution (a Zoo!) without much resources can lead to great results.

There was also room for more talks from Polish people. President of the Polish Wikimedia chapter Tomasz Ganicz gave an overview of the work that the chapter has been doing and in particular the big successes that were achieved in the Wiki Loves Monuments Competition. Dariah Cybulska, now living in the UK and working for the local Wikimedia chapter there, discussed the Wikimedian in Residence scheme which has brought the Wikimedia community in much closer contact with the institutions by letting them work there for a while. In the afternoon it was time for panel discussions and debates and it was very interesting to see the different approaches in different cultures and institutions.

In conclusion I think OpenGLAM Poland was a great success and a real eye-opener for many Polish GLAM institutions. As in many countries, it is clear that there is more and more willingness within the institutions to open up collections, but big questions were asked about how to do this in the best possible way. The top issues around legal and technical barriers are universal across Europe and the world and therefore the importance to work on this together on a global level was shown once more. The need for a standardised technical and legal infrastructure to overcome these issues is bigger than ever and with OpenGLAM Poland, a very good next step has been taken to get more people involved who want to work towards a world where all our heritage is openly available for anyone without any restrictions. I would hereby like to thank the organisers for the great event, and look forward to see what will come out of Poland very soon.

Update: All presentations are also made available as podcasts. Click here to listen to them.

OpenGLAM going forward

Joris Pekel - July 31, 2013 in Featured, News

Over the last weeks it has been relatively quiet on the OpenGLAM blog and mailing list. This is partially due to summer holidays, but also because I recently have left the Open Knowledge Foundation to work for the Europeana Foundation as the Community Coordinator Cultural Heritage. Here I will work even closer together with cultural heritage institutions to show the benefits of opening up their collections, both for themselves, as for society as a whole.

What will this mean for OpenGLAM? Well basically, not too much. OpenGLAM has established itself over the last year as a network of people involved in the cultural heritage sector where we share knowledge, write blogposts, and collaborate to organise meetings and events with cultural heritage institutions to work to make their material available for everybody to re-use without any restrictions.

As the largest European project when it comes to open digital heritage, Europeana has always been an important partner of the OpenGLAM network. Together we have organised last years OKFestival session on building the cultural commons, and during the same week Harry Verwayen from Europeana announced on the main stage that all metadata on Europeana would be available under a completely open CC0 license, an amazing achievement for the work we have all been doing together.

As part of my new role at Europeana, I will remain coordinating the OpenGLAM working group alongside Sam Leon from the Open Knowledge Foundation. Together with our working group and advisory board we will work to set out the plans for OpenGLAM for the coming period. A few of the things I would like to work on:

  • Grow the network of OpenGLAM members. We have brought together people from around the world that are working to open up cultural data and content. We meet once a month to update each other about our activities, think about blogpost to write, and discuss next steps to be taken. Very often, working group members serve as a bridge between local initiatives and the global network. We are happy to share our knowledge with anybody that is involved in the cultural sector, or wants to initiate a similar initiative – like the recent founding of OpenGLAM Austria.

  • Finalise the OpenGLAM principles. You have been giving incredibly valuable feedback to the first set of principles we developed. We now have to rework them and include your comments and get back to you. If you are interested in getting closer involved, let me know.

  • Continue developing a set of documentation and blogs about open culture data for institutions and organisations. Why is it valuable, what are the barriers, what are good case studies etc?

  • Increase the focus on Public Domain collections. There are many collections online that are in the public domain. However, many times you run into exceptions on the terms of use page that conflict with the public domain status. We have found that this is in most cases not because of institutions wanting these collections to be closed, but simply because of a lack of understanding and/or time. With a little bit of help and suggestions we managed to change quite a few license statements to a more open one.

Happy to hear more suggestions. And as always, if you want to get closer involved and join the OpenGLAM working group, let us know. No strings attached, so if you’re not sure if this is something for you, come along and find out!

Announcing the OpenGLAM Working Group

Joris Pekel - July 25, 2013 in Featured, Working Group

Last month we announced the OpenGLAM advisory board which is made up of high-profile advocates for openness within the cultural heritage sector. Hereby we would like to introduce an other vital group of the OpenGLAM network: the Working Group members.

The Members act as a bridge between different organisations and initiatives who work to open up digitised heritage, and the global network. The working group stays in close contact with the advisory board who provides guidance and gives feedback on key strategic issues. The members meet every month virtually to share knowledge, ask questions, work on projects and give updates about open culture data from around the world.

During our monthly calls we are also very happy to welcome new potential members who are interested in setting up a local initiative in their country and are seeking advice. This has for example already led to the formation of OpenGLAM Austria in the last weeks!

We are extremely happy with the current group and the diversity of different organisations, initiatives and institutions they represent. Go to the OpenGLAM Working Group page to see all their faces and read what they are up to.

Want to know more about the OpenGLAM Working Group, and how to join? Please get in touch

Case Study: Remixing Openly Licensed Content in the Public Space

Joris Pekel - July 8, 2013 in Case Studies, Featured, Guest Blog Post

This post is written by Merete Sanderhoff, who works at the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK), the National Gallery of Denmark, as researcher and project manager, leading a number of projects providing open access to the museum’s digitized collections, and using digital media to freely share knowledge and resources with fellow institutions as well as users. She is also a member of the OpenGLAM Advisory Board

In 2012, the Statens Museum fur Kunst (SMK) in Copenhagen decided to make a small batch of 160 high quality digital images of their public domain collection openly available on the web. The museum’s choice of open licenses is driven by a strong wish to encourage sharing and creative and innovative reuse of our digitized collections. Pilot projects have taught us that the need for openly licensed images and cultural heritage data is growing – not only among fellow institutions, but in the educational sector, Wikipedia, and on social media platforms in general – and likewise, that the willingness to share high quality images and data in the Danish museum community is growing.

The art pilots at work. Click for more images

In order to move from good intentions to concrete action, SMK has started a couple of initiatives to encourage museums to share their digitized collections, and the public to put them into use in new interactive ways. One of our recent initiatives is HintMe – a shared mobile museum platform – described at length in this case study on the Europeana Pro blog.

Here I will talk about a more recent initiative: Remix art on the Copenhagen metro fences.

The Copenhagen Metro is being expanded, predictably causing frustration for the people living next to the construction sites. As a positive countermove, the Copenhagen Metro Company works very creatively with decorating the metro fences, often in partnership with local communities. SMK has entered such a partnership, using our charter collection of open images as the raw material.

This partnership has allowed SMK to explore several aspects of being an OpenGLAM institution (according to the OpenGLAM principles):

  • To bring our collections to the public
  • To collaborate with external communities of users
  • To provide the framework and resources, and then step back and see what people do with the digitized artworks
  • To let go of control over how our collections are perceived, used, and create meaning and value to people

In our partnership with the Copenhagen Metro Company, SMK is represented by Young People’s Laboratories for Art (ULK) – a community of young “art pilots” who meet at SMK once a week to do volunteer work on creative projects. So far, they have mostly worked peer-to-peer with other young people, for instance at Roskilde Festival. As I mentioned in my talk at Open Culture in London July 2nd the Metro project has offered them a new set of challenges. Collaborating with all kinds of locals living by the metro fences – families with kids, elderly people etc. – they have run into highly diverse perceptions of art and what is permissible to do with the artworks.

To the art pilots, so-called ‘digital natives‘, it’s a natural and deeply rooted thing to remix the digitized artworks, do mashups, collages and Photoshop manipulations, in a seemless blend of “high and low” culture. To some of the locals around the construction sites, especially those of older generations, this approach to art seemed at first almost like an assault to the original artworks. This resulted in a lot of very productive discussions and negotiations between the art pilots and the locals who participated in project meetings and workshops.

To SMK it has been interesting to discover that our own efforts to let go of control over our digitized artworks that are in the Public Domain – and therefore may be used by the public without restrictions – can offend the art perception of some users. Paradoxically, in this case it is not so much the museum, but the users, who worry about misuse and vandalism towards the artworks’ integrity when they are shared openly with the public. As such, the Metro project is a learning process for SMK where we reap new knowledge about how the public may wish to share and reuse digitized cultural heritage, and how they create new value for themselves and each other in the process. Opening up our digitized collections is all about letting go of the monopoly to define what art is and can be used for.

Here and here, more photos can be found of the two metro fence revamps we have contributed to.

Our initiatives with open images are inspired by the ideas behind Shelley Bernstein’s crowd-curated exhibitions at Brooklyn Museum, and by design principles in Nina Simon’s book The Participatory Museum (2010), among others.

Concerns and reasons not to open up GLAM data. Part 1 – Fear of Misuse

Joris Pekel - June 21, 2013 in Documentation, Featured

Over the last year, members of the OpenGLAM initiative have been talking with many representatives from cultural heritage institutions. We have had many interesting discussions about opening up collections and tried to overcome the many reasons and concerns institutions have not to open up their data and content. In this blogpost we will talk about these different reasons and try to give advice or solutions.

'Internetcrimineel' taken by Verbeeldingskr8. CC-BY-SA

‘Internetcrimineel’ taken by Verbeeldingskr8. CC-BY-SA

In most cases, we talked about the major legal and technical questions, which we have written extensively about on the OpenGLAM blog. But very often, also other concerns within the institution plays a role in not opening up the data. When we started writing these down, we quickly realised that this was too much for a single blogpost. We will therefore explore these concerns and their possible answers in series. We will start off with a couple of concerns which can be summarised as ‘the fear of misuse’ – intentional or unintentional. Many institutions fear that by opening up their data and making it freely available, they will lose track of what happens with their data, it will be used in the wrong context, by people with bad intentions, and the data will be ripped apart, losing all it’s value.

People will misinterpret the data

By opening up the data you allow the user to access and re-use it without asking the institution first. It is hard for the institution to keep track of what happens with their data and how it is interpreted. While the curator has carefully selected and managed its collection, putting it freely online would allow the user to download it, and use and interpret it in ways that you would have never thought off.

The first step in overcoming this problem is documentation about how you think the data should be interpreted. As a curator you know most about how the collection is structured and why certain decisions were made, be prepared to help people answering their questions and correct people. At the same time, it is very likely that somebody out there knows more about your data than you do. By offering them a way to access your data and working with it, you allow them to spot errors or missing information, which they then can return to you. Several institutions have had great successes improving their collection and metadata by allowing the community to re-use it.

Finally, publishing it yourself might actually prevent wrong interpretations. When the data is online but not open, it can still be acquired via less legal means (scraping, or just right-click, save). By keeping the publishing and updating in your own hand, you can quickly point to the source data of your institution to refute the wrong interpretation.

People with bad intentions will use my data in the wrong way

We see this concern mainly at institutions who have sensible material such as war museums. The fear is that people or groups with bad intentions will use their data in a harmful or wrong way. Very often, institutions add a sentence to their license to cover this, such as this example which says: ‘You may not use the photographs to mislead people. You may not use the photographs for unlawful or inappropriate purposes.’

This kind of restriction is very hard to interpret, after all, who decides that I am using this picture inappropriate? At the same time, the data can already be obtained by other slightly harder means as written above and it is incredibly hard for an institution to track this, let alone to get the user to take it down. By adding these restrictions, the average user who wants to research or use this data in a proper way is disadvantaged as it makes it not easier to understand the restrictions. At the same time, the license is not going to prevent people who want to do harm of doing it.

Also, when people decide to use your material in a really harmful way, there are other laws than copyright that can deal with this kind of misuse such as the several anti-racism and discrimination acts.

As a final remark we would like to highlight again the importance of well maintained metadata. Opening data is not about dumping it on the web and never look at it again. It is up to the institution to publish this with the relevant information. Tell the user what they can expect, what its flaws are, and who to contact when they have questions. Only this way both the users and the institutions can really benefit from an open culture ecosystem.

For more info about opening up your data the right way, see the OpenGLAM Principles. If you are an institution and have questions, feel free to get in touch directly. See also our documentation section.

The European Library – Towards an Open Collection

Joris Pekel - June 20, 2013 in Featured, Guest Blog Post

The following post is written by Alastair Dunning, programme manager of the European Library.

In digital terms, The European Library (TEL) has been around for quite a while. Starting with the GABRIEL project in 1997, TEL sought to bring together the catalogues and collections of Europe’s national libraries. The alliances and ideas built by TEL also provided the foundations for the Europeana service, which integrated digitised material from museums, archives and other related cultural heritage organisations.

Now comprising 48 national libraries and over 20 research libraries, TEL’s portal provides access to a central index of over 117m metadata records, and an extra 18m records related to digitised items.

But in the age of open, restricting access to the search and browse of a portal is not enough. End users want to be able to interrogate and download the data that is currently aggregated by TEL.

That’s why The European Library is embarking on the process to have as many of these bibliographic records marked as CC0 as possible.

Throughout 2013, TEL will be in dialogue with its member libraries to ascertain how much of their bibliographic metadata can be released with the Creative Commons 0 mark, thus allowing for the data’s maximum reuse both commercially and non-commercially.

If one makes the assumption that each national library’s catalogue act as a record of books published in that country, then the combined TEL dataset can be thought of as Europe’s bibliography.

And once this dataset is amassed and marked as CC0 it will be able to inspire a whole range of new uses; both in terms of the data being integrated into other library services and also in providing valuable source for any research project that can benefit from this massive dataset cataloguing all of Europe’s books.

Forming an Open Authority in Cultural Heritage

Joris Pekel - June 11, 2013 in Featured, Guest Blog Post, Opinion

The following post is by Lori Byrd Phillips, who served as the 2012 US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation and is now Digital Content Coordinator at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Her research on Open Authority was recently published in Curator: The Museum Journal. You can learn more in this video from Ignite MCN and on her blog, “Defining Open Authority.”

No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity.—Pierre Lévy
Lori presenting at the MCN ignite sessions - Michael P. Edson -  cc-by 2.0

Lori presenting at the MCN ignite sessions – Michael P. Edson – cc-by 2.0

This often quoted idea of collective intelligence holds true now even more than when it was first written 20 years ago, due much to the interconnected, social, and open digital worlds in which we live. Yet, in spite of the advances in online community organizing and crowdsourcing, many cultural institutions are still uncomfortable with the idea of being “open”—and not just “open” as in “access” but “open” as in the co-creation of knowledge. The premise of this fear lies in the tension between traditional, curatorial authority and the unknown consequence of community participation and user-generated content. I believe that we’re often afraid of the things that we don’t understand, and that putting a name to something is the first step towards building understanding. So I coined the term “open authority” as a way to show that this scary idea of “open” isn’t actually so scary after all.

It’s no wonder that curators see themselves as the last bastions of legitimacy in this digital age. While new technologies are allowing user-generated content to grow exponentially by the day, curators just see the clutter. Meanwhile, others are undermining the role of traditional curators by declaring that everyone’s now a curator! But here’s the thing, professional curators are needed now more than ever to make sense of this user-generated content. The curator’s newfound relevance lies in being a facilitator of the dialogue happening on open platforms. One doesn’t lose authority when they become “open.” The expert’s role becomes even more significant when they actively participate in the broader conversation that occurs after the content is freely available.

In finding a framework for open authority I was inspired by the Reggio Emilia educational approach, which holds as its core tenets a respect for the contributions and interests of the child and the importance of community collaboration in art and in life. In a Reggio Emilia classroom the teacher never talks down to a child, but instead gets down on their level and works alongside them, letting the student guide the direction of learning. This is an already-existing vision of open authority that can be applied to museums—where the expertise of the curator comes together with visitor insights for the benefit of the community as a whole. To achieve this, the goal must be to establish institutional respect for the role of the community’s voice in the interpretation of our shared heritage.

So what really is open authority? Well we know that openness, both in access and transparency, is needed to remain relevant in our insanely collaborative world. And authority is needed to bring expertise to all of that user-generated content. Maintaining authority and being open do not have to be mutually exclusive. Openness and authority are not an “either/or” thing, they are an “and.” And that’s what open authority is: The coming together of museum expertise with meaningful contributions from our communities, both online and on-site.

So the next time the question of open access comes up, be sure to soothe the fears of those around you. With open authority, it’s not about giving up anything—it’s about collaborating with our communities so that our institutional expertise can be made even better, together.

Talk at Re:Publica – Curating the Digital Commons

Joris Pekel - May 14, 2013 in Events/Workshops, Featured, Opinion

Last week, the thirteenth edition of the Re:Publica conference was organised in Berlin. With more than 5000 people attending, it is one of the biggest events around new media, journalism and activism. The OpenGLAM team was there to give a talk about the curation of the digital cultural commons.

Together with Daniel Dietrich, chairman of the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, and member of the OpenGLAM working group, I prepared the talk which is largely inspired by the recent post on OpenGLAM about Small Data in GLAMs. At the moment we are able to get access to such vast amounts of data, that it not longer becomes comprehensible. We therefore need better infrastructure, access and tools to create the most value out of all this metadata and content.

We started the talk by explaining the notion of a commons: the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society. The traditional notion of the environmental commons has been debated many times and are often referred to as ‘the tragedy of the commons’ as these natural resources are not as non-rivalrous and non-excludable as we used to think. However, a digital commons has the quality that when I make a copy of it, any other person is still able to make that exact same copy of the dataset, which will never deplete.

“Digital commons are defined as an information and knowledge resources that are collectively created and owned or shared between or among a community and that be (generally freely) available to third parties. Thus, they are oriented to favor use and reuse, rather than to exchange as a commodity.” - Mayo Fusster Morelli

The fact that these digital artefacts can be re-used by anybody is perhaps the greatest assest of the digital commons, everybody can curate, connect, annotate and remix these materials indefinitely.

After an explanations about the difference between metadata and content (and how difficult the distinction often is!) and an overview of some leading open culture projects such as Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America it became clear how much content we actually have access to at the moment. Just Europeana and the DPLA together provide 30.000.000 metadata records that all link to a digitised object. Wikimedia Commons and the Internet Archive give access to another 25.000.000 media objects. How can a user make sense of that?

For that reason we need to stop thinking about just adding more data and creating huge databases. The Commons need to be structured and made accessible in a way that the user can get meaningful results out of this content and data, and is able to collect the relevant data for his research. The institutions and the users should be able to easily create small data ‘packages’, for example collecting all of Van Gogh’s work. The internet is exceptionally well placed to bring together content in one place, something that would never be possible physically. At the same time we can provide relevant links between collections, artists, time-periods and so on, so the user can explore more related content. This also comes down to good quality metadata, something that is not always there at the moment, not surprising when combining data from thousands of cultural institutions.

Finally we need the relevant tools that allow us to re-use the digital commons. With them, we are able to curate, annotate, visualise, mashup, and much more. Combined, the user and the cultural institution can work together to create the most value out of this enormous amount of digitised content and data.

For a video recording of the talk, click here.

Big Data vs. Small Data: What about GLAMs?

Joris Pekel - May 2, 2013 in Featured, Opinion

Last week, co-founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation Rufus Pollock published the first blogpost in a series on small data. In his post ‘Forget Big Data, Small Data is the real revolution‘, Pollock writes:

Meanwhile we risk overlooking the much more important story here, the real revolution, which is the mass democratisation of the means of access, storage and processing of data. This story isn’t about large organisations running parallel software on tens of thousand of servers, but about more people than ever being able to collaborate effectively around a distributed ecosystem of information, an ecosystem of small data.


[...] Size in itself doesn’t matter – what matters is having the data, of whatever size, that helps us solve a problem or address the question we have.

And when we want to scale up the way to do that is through componentized small data: by creating and integrating small data “packages” not building big data monoliths, by partitioning problems in a way that works across people and organizations, not through creating massive centralized silos.

This next decade belongs to distributed models not centralized ones, to collaboration not control, and to small data not big data.”

How does this relate to the cultural sector? Europeana now offers access to more than 27 million metadata records, Wikimedia Commons has 16 million media files available, Internet Archive 9 million objects and last week the Digital Public Library of America launched with 2.5 million metadata records, and are quickly expanding. This is a fantastic achievement, but this amount of material is incomprehensible for any person and it is still just a fraction of all the digitised material, which is only a fraction of what could be digitised. How to make sense of that?

As Pollock describes, it is not about the size of your database, the real revolution is the mass democratisation of the public institutions. It is possible to create packages with the complete works of Shakespeare, beautiful paintings by Van Gogh or a set of Medieval Maps. Packages that are ready for re-use which can be linked to other sets of content for further exploration.

One question that arises is: who should create these packages of data? Who decides what content should be put together? Should we leave this to the traditional ‘experts’, the curators and archivists, or do we need to let the community do this? The most logical answer to this question is: both, or better, together. The dialogue between the public institutions and the user has traditionally been very important and when users have access to such vast amounts of content and metadata, guidance and curation becomes perhaps even more needed. At the same time these experts get the chance to work with thousands of contributors who can give feedback, enrich their data, link it, and work with it in ways that could not be imagined by the institution.

For this reason – besides releasing content and data under an open license and providing a standardised technical open infrastructure as described in the OpenGLAM principles – the Open GLAM should be prepared to engage in the discussion and build value together with the community. Opening up data is not about dumping it online and never look at it again, it is about a dialogue where the public institutions tries as much as possible to send the user on his way, only to see him wander off and explore paths and directions never seen before.

We would love to hear your opinion on this topic. Please subscribe to the OpenGLAM mailing list to join the discussion.