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.
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 The intention to open up collections is definitely there from all sides, but vague and outdated copyright law makes that a very burdensome and often impossible task.
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.
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.