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Open Licensing: What Is It, Why Do It?

Lieke Ploeger - March 6, 2015 in Featured


On 5 March 2015, the AAM’s Media & Technology Professional Network and the New Media Consortium organised a webinar on open licensing for GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives, museums). A panel of experts (including Michael Edson and Sarah Stierch from our OpenGLAM Advisory Board and Working Group respectively) discussed different ways for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) of all sizes to openly license their collections, as well as the potential benefits and challenges for implementing open licensing.

For those who missed the session, the full recording is included below. You can also find a summary by Amelia Wong on Storify, and a useful Resources list with more background information on this page. Thanks to all who participated in providing this great session!

First Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon

Beat Estermann - March 4, 2015 in Featured, Hack days

The First Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon which took place on 27 / 28 February 2015 at the Swiss National Library in Bern was a great success: Some 100 software developers, artists, designers, researchers, Wikipedians and members of the heritage sector gathered to re-use more than 30 open data sets. The data and content provided by over 20 different institutions was re-used in a wide range of fields: for research purposes in the Digital Humanities and related areas, for the transmission of free knowledge in the context of Wikipedia/Wikimedia, for a variety of web-apps, and for artistic remixes. The hackathon was also an excellent means for heritage institutions to enter into dialogue with software developers, researchers, Wikipedians, and to put cultural data and digitized collections to wider use. And, last but not least, the hackathon was about sharing know-how, insights, software code, and techniques in an open-minded and playful environment among participants of varying backgrounds.

CH-NB-Swiss Open Cultural Hackathon 2015-Picture-031

The artefacts developed during the hackathon have been documented on the hackathon wiki; here some examples:

"Picture This"

Carl Durheim’s police photographs of stateless persons from the mid-19th century inspired several projects. One of them is “Picture This”, which consists of a “smart” frame showing a police photograph. By looking at the picture, spectators trigger a face detection algorithm that analyses both the onlooker and the stateless person’s gender and age as well as the mood of the person on the portrait. Information about the person on the photograph appears. Thus, spectators become part of the system judging the homeless person, and the person on the picture is once again at the mercy of the onlooker.

The Project “Schweizer Kleinmeister – An Unexpected Journey” shows a large image collection in an interactive 3D-visualisation: Some 2300 prints and drawings by the so-called “Schweizer Kleinmeister” (Swiss 18th century masters) from the Gugelmann Collection of the Swiss National Library form a cloud in the virtual space. The images are grouped according to specific parameters that are automatically calculated by image analysis and based on metadata. The goal is to provide a fast and intuitive access to the entire collection. Based on the criterion of analysis chosen (e.g. techniques or image features) the images are projected onto 3D space, where they can be explored.

There are many other things you may want to explore:

This blog was cross-posted from the Swiss OpenGLAM  local group website, OpenGLAM.CH

OpenGLAM-related events: March/April highlights

Lieke Ploeger - March 2, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured

On the OpenGLAM homepage, we maintain a calendar of events to notify everyone in our network of relevant events related to opening up cultural heritage. This post highlights events taking place in March and April: if you know of an event that should be in our calendar, please notify us by adding it here!


5 March: Webinar Open Licensing: What Is It, Why Do It? (online)

In this free one-hour webinar, a panel of experts will host a roundtable discussion on the different ways for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) of all sizes to openly license their collections, as well as the potential benefits and challenges for implementing open licensing. Digital strategist Michael Edson of the Smithsonian Institution and OpenGLAM Advisory Board member will moderate the discussion: OpenGLAM working group member Sarah Stierch is on the expert panel as well. More information and registration is poossible through this page.

9 March: Early English Books Hackfest (Oxford, UK)

Following the release of 25,000 texts from the Early English Books Online project into the public domain (read more), the Bodleian Libraries are hosting a hackday around this impressive text corpus. Students, researchers from all disciplines, and members of the public with an interest in the intersection between technology, history and literature are invited to work together to develop a project using the texts and the data they may generate. The EEBO-TCP corpus consist of over two million pages and nearly a billion words from the period 1473-1700, with texts across all academic disciplines, including literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics and science. More information on the event is available here.


10-12 April: GLAM-WIKI 2015 (The Hague, The Netherlands)

GLAM WIKI 2015 is a conference about projects by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs) in collaboration with Wikimedia projects and/or that have another open knowledge component. Professionals and volunteers are very welcome. The goals of the conference are:

  1. To share lessons learned and best practices on this subject.
  2. To inspire and motivate participants to join existing or to start up new projects that support the mission of the Wikimedia movement.
  3. To increase awareness of the importance of freely accessible cultural heritage and to put currently available content in the spotlight.

An overview of all submitted proposal to the event is available here: submissions include an update from the OpenGLAM Benchmark Survey (link), a talk on How to Guerilla GLAM by OpenGLAM Working Group member Subhashish Panigrahi (link) and a case study on how a mid-size institution can benefit from opening their collection by OpenGLAM working group coordinator Joris Pekel (link).


17-18 April: DPLAFest 2015 (Indianapolis, USA)

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together digitized cultural heritage materials from American libraries, archives, and museums, and makes these available as freely and openly as possible. To mark the second birthday of DPLA, the DPLAfest 2015 invites  teachers and students, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and technologists, publishers and authors, genealogists, and members of the public to discuss everything from technology and development, to (e)books, law, genealogy, and education. The event will be a mix of interactive workshops, hands-on activities, hackathons, discussions with community leaders and practitioners, and more: registration is possible through the DPLA website.

26-29 April: 2015 Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo (Atlanta, USA)

The theme of this year’s American Alliance of Museums annual meeting is ‘The Social Value of Museums: Inspiring Change’, inviting participants to consider how museums can embody their increased social value and engagement through their educational mission, their programs and collections, their community presence and their public service. In addition, during this event the winners of the MUSE awards, the annual competition recognizing outstanding achievement in Galleries, Libraries, Archives or Museums (GLAM) will be presented, featuring a dedicated Open category for projects using open data and content.

This is just a selection of events: you can find our complete calendar of events on the OpenGLAM homepage!

Rijksstudio Award 2015

Lieke Ploeger - February 25, 2015 in Contest, eSpace, Featured

The Dutch Rijksmuseum is one of the pioneers when it comes to sharing open cultural heritage data online. Since 2011, they have been releasing high-quality images of the artworks in their collection (including famous paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer) through Rijksstudio: currently there are 200.000 works available that users can share, download and reuse to make their own artworks.

Following a successful competiton last year, the Rijksmuseum is now organising the second round of the Rijksstudio Award Make your own Masterpiece, inviting everyone to create a design using Rijksstudio. Every form of art is allowed – design, fine art, applied art, photography, video – and the ten winners will be exhibited in the Rijksmuseum. The deadline for entries is 15 March 2015: more information is available from this page.

If you are looking for inspiration to enter the competition, check out the video below or the winners of last year’s round!

Rijksstudio Award 2015 – Make your own Masterpiece from Rijksmuseum on Vimeo.

UN recommends open licensing for promoting cultural participation

Lieke Ploeger - February 19, 2015 in Featured, News

220px-UN_emblem_blue.svgIn a recent United Nations report ‘Copyright policy and the right to science and culture’, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, encourages the use of open licenses for the promotion of cultural and scientific participation. The report discusses copyright law and policy in relation to the human right to science and culture and was written following a round of expert meetings and consultations with stakeholders.

In the section on Copyright policy and cultural participation, the Special Rapporteur proposes to expand copyright exceptions and limitations (also on an international scale) and, most importantly for OpenGLAM, stresses the importance of open licensing as an essential copyright tool for expanding cultural participation and building a ‘cultural commons’ in which everyone can access, share and recombine cultural works. From the conclusion:

The human rights perspective focuses attention on important themes that may be lost when copyright is treated primarily in terms of trade: the social function and human dimension of intellectual property, the public interests at stake, the importance of transparency and public participation in policymaking, the need to design copyright rules to genuinely benefit human authors, the importance of broad diffusion and cultural freedom, the importance of not-for-profit cultural production and innovation, and the special consideration for the impact of copyright law upon marginalised or vulnerable groups.

Some relevant passages around open licensing are marked in the image below (with thanks to @mpedson):


The report was sent to the Human Right Council as input for their session in March 2015: the full version is available here.

A Mongolian Manual of Astrology and Divination

Michael J. North - February 3, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


Michael J. North, Head of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts in NLM’s History of Medicine Division, takes a look at one the highlights of the Library’s Turning the Pages project, a Mongolian manuscript concerned with interpreting the heavens.

Detail from a page of the manuscript, “Departing on a Trip 2″ – Source.

In 2001, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) launched Turning the Pages, a resource providing interactive access to a range of rare books, manuscripts, and documents from the historical collections of the NLM on its website, via iPad App, and in onsite kiosks. To date, the project has offered the public access to a wide range of early printed books and manuscripts that span centuries, cover topics from surgery and anatomy to botany and horse veterinary medicine, and originate from places as diverse as Iran, Japan, Egypt, Italy, and now Mongolia. In November 2014, the NLM added a Mongolian manuscript entitled Manual of Astrology and Divination.

This colorfully illustrated handwritten book is part of a collection at NLM of about fifty manuscripts from Mongolia, many of them dealing with astrology, astronomy, and divination from a Buddhist perspective. Prominent among the subjects divined about are health and wellness. This particular manuscript is full of charts and diagrams that astrologers, generally Buddhist monks, would use to calculate auspicious times to do certain things, such as depart on a trip or remove a dead body from a dwelling.

“Basics of Mongolian Astrology” – Source.

The text itself is in Tibetan, which was the liturgical language of Mongolian Buddhism. Similar to Tibetan traditional books, this manuscript consists of unbound, oblong leaves of paper written on both sides. Also following tradition, the book is wrapped in a silk cloth with strings tying it up into a tight bundle. The hand-made paper was likely imported, the inks and dyes used for the manuscript were most likely hand-made locally, and it was probably copied by a professional monk-scribe. While it was copied sometime in the 1800s, the information in the text is likely to be many centuries old.

Most Mongolians are followers of Buddhism, a religion which originated in India and came to Central Asia via the Silk Road in the 3rd century CE and from Tibet and China during the era of the Mongolian Emperor of the Yuan dynasty, Kublai Khan in the 13th century. Because of this, Mongolian astronomy and divination were heavily influenced by Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese traditions. The many colorful charts in this manuscript were based on astrological texts imported to Mongolia from Tibet in the late 1700s. Much of this philosophy was laid down and taught in Tibet and Mongolia by Sumpa Khenpo Yeshe Peljor (1703–1788), a Mongol Buddhist monk and master of both astrology and medicine from Amdo, one of the traditional regions of Northern Tibet near modern-day Mongolia. In 1789 a school for the study and practice of astrology based on his teachings was established in Urga, modern-day Ulan Bator, which is today the capital of Mongolia.

“Eclipses and Zodiac” – Source.

Many of the charts in the manuscript used for making calculations may not appear to Westerners to be charts at all. The leaf pictured above contains charts in the form of a man’s body (far left) and a glaring face with its mouth open (far right). The numbers written in cursive on the human chart on the left (‘khor lo) are used to calculate the movements of Saturn (spen pa). According to old European medical astrology Saturn affected the spleen, whereas in Indian astrology, Saturn rules the knees and legs. This chart places Saturn at the center of the male body to suggest the planet’s influence on bones, ribs, nerves, and possession of male energy. The chart on the right resembling a face is used to calculate Rahu, which corresponds to the solar eclipse. Garuda, a mythical half-man/half-bird figure, is also depicted on the page, to represent the force and power energies that are at play in the accompanying charts.

“Naga” – Source.

The charts on this leaf, pictured above, refer to a text used for the calculation of the stellar constellations (skar ma) and corresponding fluctuations in Naga or serpentine energy. In the tables, the 28 lunar mansions, or segments of the lunar ecliptic, are each given by name. Nagas are powerful spirits of the underworld that take the form of snakes (sprul) and half-snake/half-human creatures (klu). Naga energy has an important effect on human health, wealth, and weather, and this kind of divination chart is used to determine Naga offerings and practices.

The selection of images and curatorial text for the manuscript’s appearance in the Turning the Pages project were carried out by Dr. Uranchimeg “Orna” Tsultem, a native of Mongolia. Dr. Tsultem holds a PhD in Art History from the University of California at Berkeley, where she has served as a lecturer on the Art of Mongolia and Tibet. She has curated a number of exhibitions on Mongolian art internationally, including in Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York, and Bonn, Germany. She currently holds a faculty position as an Associate Professor at the National University of Mongolia, and is working on several research projects, which include contemporary women’s art; she is also writing a book on Mongolian Buddhist art.

The interactive project is viewable on two kiosks at the National Library of Medicine, on the Library’s website, and now also in the Turning the Pages App for iPad available for free.

For more information about NLM’s collections relating to Mongolia or to the Turning the Pages project, please contact us at

“Travels and Lions” – Source.

“Solving Disputes” – Source.

“Lotus” – Source.

“Cover” – Source.

Michael J. North is the Head of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

To learn more about the Turning the Pages project visit the website. To browse more of the National Library of Medicine’s wonderful pool of public domain material visit their Digital Collections section. We also highly recommend checking out their excellent Circulating Now blog, from which this piece from Michael North was adapted.

This post is part of our Curator’s Choice series, a monthly feature consisting of a guest article from a curator about a work or group of works in one of their “open” digital collections. Learn more here. See this post in all its full page width glory over at The Public Domain Review.

Europeana Space project: TV hackathon

Marieke Guy - February 2, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured, Hack days

espaceThe Europeana Space project, which is creating new opportunities for employment and economic growth within the creative industries sector based on Europe’s rich digital cultural resources, will be running a 3-day Europeana TV hackathon from 8th – 10th May 2015 in Amsterdam.

The hackathon will be aimed at creatives, entrepreneurs and developers of content, hardware and/or code.

They will get the opportunity to experiment with Smart Audio/Video formats and come up with inspiring applications that create new TV experiences for the public or private domain, using Europeana content.


Europeana TV pilot activity is one in a series of six pilots which will cover the following thematic areas: Europeana TV, Photography, Dance, Games, Open and Hybrid Publishing, Museums. The pilots will be a means to explore different scenarios for the re-use of digital cultural content, with a special focus on the re-use of the content accessible via Europeana.

EuropeanaTV exploits the opportunities of re-using Europeana content in SmartTV applications to create new TV experiences. A technical framework will provide an environment to analyse, personalize and present Europeana content. The pilot will support and evaluate two scenarios in which video material is brought out of the archive and onto the viewer’s screen.

banner Tv hackathon

The hackathon will take place from Friday 8th May 2015 at 4:00pm till Sunday 10th May 2015 at 4:00pm at the Waag Society, Nieuwmarkt 4, 1012 CR Amsterdam. For full details and information on how to register see the Europeana Space project website.

Open Knowledge is a consultant on the Europeana Space supporting activities related to open licensing.


Over 25,000 early English books released into the public domain

Lieke Ploeger - January 29, 2015 in Featured, News, Public Domain

Since January 2015 over 25,000 early English texts from 1473-1700 have been released online to members of the public under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication through the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP). Since 2000, the university libraries of Michigan and Oxford and ProQuest have been working together in this initiative to create electronic text versions of early printed books from ProQuest’s Early English Books Online, Gale Cengage’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and Readex’s Evans Early American Imprints. goe_image-sm-2

While these texts were previously only available to users of academic libraries participating in the partnership, at the end of the first phase of EEBO-TCP the current 25,000 texts have now been released into the public domain. They include highlights such as first printed editions of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton, but also a wide variety of lesser known texts on topics ranging from sword fighting to witchcraft and gardening manuals. Users can not only browse and read through the text of these early English books, but also search through the entire corpus (which consists of two million pages and nearly a billion words). Searching for keywords and themes is possible as well because the text has been encoded with Extensible Markup Language (XML). An additional 40,000 texts will be released into the public domain by 2020.

Connected with this release, The Bodleian Libraries are hosting the Early English Books Hackfest in Oxford on 9 March 2015. The event encourages students, researchers from all disciplines, and members of the public with an interest in the intersection between technology, history and literature to work together to develop a project using the texts and the data they may generate.

More information about the release is available through the Bodleian Libraries website: registration for the hackday is possible through Eventbrite.

Join the EuropeanaTech conference

Lieke Ploeger - January 26, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured

Under the subtitle ‘Making the beautiful thing – Transforming technology and culture’ the second EuropeanaTech Conference will be held on 12-13 February 2015 at the National Library of France in Paris. This event brings invites all those working in the cultural heritage field, including application developers, information professionals, technology researchers and decision makers, to come together and explore technical challenges around digitisation and re-use of cultural content, learn about new developments and establish future collaborations.

The programme includes keynote speeches by Dan Cohen of the Digital Public Library of America (one of the OpenGLAM Advisory Board members) and Tim Sherratt, manager of the Trove service that brings together Australian digitised cultural heritage. Also of special interest to OpenGLAM is the session ‘Opening up with technology’, which focuses on what can be achieved in this area with tools such as the Europeana Content Reuse Framework, Public Domain Calculators and the GLAMwiki toolset, while also discussing technological and organisational barriers to opening up our cultural heritage. The complete programme is available from this page.

Registration is possible through Eventbrite: more information on the event can be found on the Europeana Professional Website.


DPLA: New Strategic Plan

Lieke Ploeger - January 8, 2015 in Featured, News, Uncategorized

horizontal_logo_blue_withoutWhiteBackgroundThis week the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) published its Strategic Plan, which details the organisation’s goals for the period 2015-2017. DPLA brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage sites, and making them freely available to students, teachers, researchers, and the general public. Since the start in 2013, nearly 8,5 million items are now available through the DPLA portal.

The Strategic Plan formulates several priorities for the organisation, such as increasing the amount of content hubs throughout the USA, enhancing and improving metadata, streamlining rights statements (bringing the current 26.000 different rights statements down to 15-20 total), improving the technical infrastructure and increasing use of the DPLA portal and platform through increased dissemination efforts. As part of this, DPLA will be organising a yearly public event called DPLAfest: the 2015 edition takes place on 17-18 April in Indianapolis.

The full plan and an introduction to it by director Dan Cohen are available from