While there is a growing professionalization in the field of GLAM in Brazil, one would hardly argue we are faced with a thriving OpenGLAM movement. Digitization itself is not a widespread phenomenon, even if there is a growing sense of its importance. There are, however, a few initiatives involving both providing open content online and providing support for initiatives that are worthy of attention.
In 2006, José and Guita Mindlin officially donated their library of 32,2 thousand titles, or 60 thousand volumes, to the University of São Paulo. Mindlin’s collection is an expressive ensemble of books and manuscripts about Brazil – Brazilian studies, literature, history, science, travel journals, maps, iconography, arts, and books as an object of art – a “brasiliana” collection, and the most important of the kind. While José devoted his life to collecting books, his wife Guita specialized in conservation and restoration and maintained a private conservation lab.
The University of São Paulo compromised with preserving the collection and making it accessible to the wider public. Between 2008 and 2010, Fapesp, the State of São Paulo foundation for research, provided Brasiliana funds for the development of a platform (Corisco), and the BNDES (National Bank for Development) funded the project’s continuation. Corisco parts from DSpace and its modules, and aggregates other free software components such as IIPImage and BookReader. Ever since it started to be developed, it was adapted and adopted by other cultural institutions.
Brasiliana contains currently 3.800 digitized documents: books, manuscripts, maps, journals and images in the public domain, available for download. Digitization itself hasn’t been an issue; “the hardest work has been metadata, cataloguing and preparation”, said professor Pedro Puntoni, who directed the Brasiliana until 2013. Also, about half of the collection is not in the public domain and currently unlicensed.
Besides making the works available, Brasiliana takes efforts to organize user-friendlier content: it also presents a curated selection of “critical texts”, such as a collection of pamphlets about the abolition of slavery in Brazil, written between 1883 and 1889 – 1888 was the year when slavery was officially abolished by Princess Isabel. As reported, these documents cast a new light on official discourses about the period.
Another noteworthy initiative is the Rede Memorial (Memorial Network), created in 2009 by a network of 31 institutions, which signed a Letter of Principles (redrafted in 2012), directed at sustaining policies for digitization of memorial collections. Their principles are:
- Open, public and free access: adoption of open protocols, that allow for interoperation and common search for documents and metadata;
- Sharing of information and technology among the institutions;
- Accessibility, using W3C standards (Web Accessibility Initiative). A first effort shall be directed at improving OCR strategies and direct revision of text;
- Identification, organization and treatment as pre-requisite for digitization, for overcoming different methods, techniques and practices shared by different sorts of collections;
- Developing capture and image treatment standards, and improving on the existing ones;
- Metadata and Information Architecture: developing and sharing knowledge about usage of systems that read metadata, or databases that allow dissemination and migration of these information;
- Developing long-term oriented standards and norms for digital preservation
- Working on education, research and training projects;
- Thinking of marketing and education, and developing methods to evaluate the efficacy of the diffusion of collections;
- Copyrights: working on policy and the creation of systems to manage the intellectual property status and the authenticity of the digital objects;
in the first semester of 2014, Rede Memorial, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Petrobrás, promoted an open competition for digitization projects, prioritizing institutions that had little or no experience in the field, with relevant projects involving only copyright-free materials.
The 10 winning projects were awarded with equipment and training for the establishment of digitization labs for 2D materials – and all projects consist of public domain artworks. The implementation of the award is to take place within the next months, according to Millard Schisler, the head behind Rede Memorial.