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Walters Art Museum goes CC0

Sarah Stierch - July 30, 2015 in Featured, News

In 2012, the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland, became one of the first American cultural institutions to adopt an open license model for their digitized collections. Using a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, they released over 18,000 images into the OpenGLAM world. These images were not only available via the Walters website, but, also on Wikimedia Commons.

Since their uploads to Wikimedia, the images have been used in over 4,098 Wikimedia project pages, including Wikipedia articles in over 50 languages. In June 2015, those pages were viewed over 8.4 million times!

While those numbers are impressive, today marks yet another milestone for OpenGLAM: The Walters Art Museum has released their digitized images and metadata under a CC0 license.


Let’s get this party started! Walters goes CC0!! (“Merry Company” by Jan van Bijlert, ca. 1630)

You can see their updated statement on their website here and access their metadata via their API. Finally, you can see their statement on their Rights & Reproductions page here. Now, we are in the process of updating the licensing on Wikimedia Commons.

By releasing their metadata and images under a CC0 license, the Walters has made an unprecedented move in the GLAM world. The Walters is a museum that celebrates its’ collection as being a part of the public trust – a collection that is made as accessible as possible to the public. Their collection was donated to the City of Baltimore and is practically “owned” by the people.

The museum has no admission fees and encourages creative reuse of their collection through innovative events such as annual hack-a-thons, which are implemented with support from Wikimedia District of Columbia. For online visitors, they encourage interaction between the visitor, the staff and the artwork. Online visitors are encouraged to email curatorial staff with questions and have the ability to download images for free, create their own online collection and tag artworks for discovery by other online visitors.

A big “Huzzah!” to the Walters Art Museum and their tireless staff and board of directors, for helping to make this a reality.

Special thanks to Dylan Kinnett, Manager of Web and Social Media at the Walters. Kinnett has been working with myself and OpenGLAM volunteers, since 2011, to help make the Walters Art Museum’s collection one of the most accessible on earth.


Presenting the Open Content Exchange Platform

Lieke Ploeger - July 29, 2015 in eSpace, Featured, Tools

Last year Open Knowledge joined the eSpace (Europeana Space) project to cooperate on the work for the Content Space, one of the spaces of possibility for the creative reuse of digital cultural content which this project is developing. Recently this Content Space went live, including the first version of the Open Content Exchange Platform, a resource developed by Open Knowledge that provides guidelines and tools for the effective exchange of public domain and openly licensed content between both suppliers and users of open content.


In the Content Space (which is one of three spaces being developed in eSpace alongside the Innovation Space and the Technical Space), you can find a variety of resources, including:

  • information about licensing, rights labelling and associated new technical standards
  • guidelines on how to identify reusable content
  • guidance, tools and resources on openly licensed and public domain materials
  • case studies based on the E-Space pilots
  • legal advice and tools for the lawful reuse of digital content

Open Knowledge is building the Open Content Exchange Platform as part of this Content Space: a directory of materials and sources related to the value of digital public domain and best practices around open licensing, creative reuse of open content and open strategies for business modelling. For those familiar with our recently updated Open Collections page, you may recognize that this platform is also built using Omeka software, which facilitates searching by tags, item types and keywords.


The Open Content Exchange Platform will help answer, in an accessible, user-friendly way, questions around the reuse of open cultural content, such as:

  • How do I label my content correctly?
  • How can i get content cleared to reuse?
  • Do licence rules for what I can do differ by country?
  • Are there differences between the licence for physical work or a digital work?

There are a variety of different resources in the platform, such as guides, case studies, videos, papers, books and presentations: through the search interface, you can easily filter on specific content, or on specific tags. All resources of our OpenGLAM Documentation page have also been incorporated – in the future, a version of the new platform will replace our Documentation webpage to provide a more user-friendly and updated overview.


One of the areas that eSpace and the Open Content Exchange Platform focus on is the reuse of open cultural heritage by creative industries. It is anticipated that results from the platform will inform further research and policy making in the cultural heritage sphere, specifically around business models for open cultural content. Over the next months, we’ll be working on adding further resources, so that any poorly covered areas can be filled as well, in addition to improving the search functionalities. The final version of the Open Content Exchange Platform is planned for February 2016.


One of the resources in the Open Content Exchange Platform: Opinion piece by Maarten Brinkerink of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision on the value of open cultural data and its potential for creative reuse

Feedback on the platform is very welcome: are there any resources you would like to see included? Do you have specific questions around the reuse of cultural heritage material that you would like to find guidance on? Would you like to be able to search the platform in different ways? Let us know in the comments, or by sending an email to


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LGMA Storytelling Application: Irish Folktales & Poetry

Ruth Montague - July 22, 2015 in eSpace, Featured, Guest Blog Post


As part of the Europeana Space project, the Libraries Development Team of the Irish Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is exploring the potential for reusing open digital cultural content for educational purposes. The aim is to develop a storytelling application based on Irish folktales and poems that will allow the creation of versatile teaching material to support the primary curriculum. It will also provide students with the opportunity to experiment with digital cultural content while developing literacy and creative writing skills, as well as imagination.The Fairies

The primary content of the application will consist of widely recognised folktales (The Children of Lir, and The Cattle Raid of Cooley) and poems (The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats, and The Fairies by William Allingham) of Irish origin. These will be available in a number of formats – text, audio, video, illustration – and may be explored through different story-lines of the application: map, timeline or narrative.

LGMA is a state agency in Ireland providing a range of services in support of coordinated and effective delivery of Local Government services and policy. The Libraries Development team manages the national policy for the digitisation of public library holdings and the national digitisation research and initiatives arising. The team also works with national education bodies to develop content to support the education curriculum in schools, with libraries to develop literacy and numeracy supports and liaises with teacher training colleges to tailor content and content applications to the requirements of the teacher.

The technical development of the application is supported by PostScriptum and will facilitate incorporating related open licensed content from sources such as Europeana, Wikipedia Commons and Flickr Commons. In addition, students will be encouraged to create their own interpretations of Irish folktales and poems and share them through social media.

The development of this story-telling application is a great opportunity not only to promote reuse of Europe’s rich cultural content for educational purposes, but also to support the Digital Agenda for Europe for enhancing digital literacy.

The application is due to be launched in early 2016.

OpenGLAM at Wikimania 2015 – Benchmark survey update

Lieke Ploeger - July 21, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured, GLAM-Wiki

Last week the annual Wikimedia conference Wikimania took place in Mexico City. Attendees from over 40 countries came together to discuss issues related to the state of free knowledge, the role of Wikipedia in education, privacy and digital rights, using technology to grow participation, and more. From our OpenGLAM working group, Subhashish Panigrahi presented on How to Guerilla GLAM, while Beat Estermann gave an update on the work of the OpenGLAM benchmark survey.Wikimania_15_Mexico_logo.svg

The OpenGLAM Benchmark Survey, is an online survey that is conducted among heritage institutions throughout the world. The purpose of the survey is to measure the state of advancement of OpenGLAM in various countries around the world (for example regarding digitization, inter-organisational cooperation involving the exchange of metadata, open data, crowdsourcing, linked data) and identify the main challenges and obstacles that stand in the way of the promotion of open cultural data and free access to knowledge. As such, it is a useful tool to better understand the particularities of each country, to put insights gained in a country into a broader perspective, and to better adapt strategies and best practices to the specific situation of each country.

At the Wikimania session, Beat Estermann of the Bern University of Applied Sciences showed the results from the first set of countries surveyed, which include Finland, Poland, Switzerland and the Netherlands.



Some of the main findings show encouraging trends for OpenGLAM:

  • Digitization and social media are widespread practices in the GLAM sector
  • 70% of institutions think that opening up their content helps them to better fulfill their core mission: over the next 5 years we will see leaps in digitization activities and freely licensed content
  • Copyright clearance is no show-stopper: across all object types, institutions may release at least 50% of their holdings as open content

The study also identified the main challenges and risks in the way of opening up content:

  • Many GLAM institutions have an aversion against allowing commercial use of open content as well as to letting third parties modify the content
  • The time effort and expense related to the digitization and the documentation of content are high
  • Re-use of content without proper attribution, misuse of content and copyright infringements are seen as the biggest risks

Interestingly, loss of revenue is only a minor concern for institutions: the greater worry is around rights clearance issues and the tracking of the use of content.

The OpenGLAM benchmark survey team will continue their efforts to collect data in further countries throughout 2015. Additional country reports will be published later this year, with an international final report in the first half of 2016. More information about the survey and how to get involved is available on the project’s webpage.

Daniel Nyblin’s Glass Negatives of Artworks

Hanna-Leena Paloposki - July 7, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


Hanna-Leena Paloposki, chief curator and archive- and library manager at the Finnish National Gallery, presents a selection from the gallery’s collection of Daniel Nyblin glass negatives, a collection comprised of the photographer’s lesser known images of artworks.

Daniel Nyblin (1856–1923) was one of the leading and most productive photographers in Finland during the turn of the nineteenth century. Known for his portraits, tens of thousands of his cartes-de-visite and larger cabinet portraits have survived, partly in the collection of the National Board of Antiquities in Finland. Nyblin was particularly popular as a photographer among the middle and upper classes of Helsinki, and his studio and name were well known in the city. In addition to portraits, his photographic oeuvre comprised of landscapes and townscapes.

Nyblin, however, is less known for his photography of artworks, and it is such pictures of which The Nyblin collection, owned by the Finnish National Gallery, consists.

Nyblin trained as a photographer in his native country of Norway and became acquainted with both photography and visual arts during a study trip in the United States. In 1875, at the age of 19, he arrived in Helsinki and made it his home. At that time, Finland belonged to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy, from 1809 to 1917. It is unknown why Nyblin remained in the city as his intention might have been to travel to Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, where the opportunities and market for a competent photographer would have been considerable. The photography business was experiencing a boom throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, accelerated by new technical advances.

Ferdinand von Wright, Eagle, 1877, oil on canvas, owner unknown. Glass negative (and positive), wet collodion plate, 391 x 327 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1879.

Already by 1877, Nyblin founded his own studio in Helsinki and began photographing artworks two years later. He photographed twelve paintings at the annual exhibition of the Finnish Art Society and made the pictures into an album which was sold to the public. His partner in publishing, G. W. Edlund, was one of Finland’s major publishers and booksellers of the time. The album was a success and Nyblin later published others of a similar nature.

In 1883, Nyblin began to take photographs for a grand-scale picture series titled Finsk Konst – Suomen Taide (Finnish Art). He augmented this series every year with new photos, for example from art exhibitions, and at the beginning of the 20th century it consisted of 526 photos of artworks from 67 different artists. Nyblin and Edlund continued their partnership in publishing the series, and with Edlund’s connections to bookshops all over the country Nyblin’s photographs had a vast and comprehensive distribution network. The two gentlemen combined their skills and created a successful concept, although Nyblin was by his own right an able businessman and marketer of his own products.

Albert Edelfelt, Summer evening, 1883, oil on canvas, owner unknown. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate, 385 x 335 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1883.

Daniel Nyblin included sculpture in his Finnish Art Series. Walter Runeberg, Amor and Psyche as Children, this marble version from 1881, Ateneum Art Museum. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate, 180 x 231 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1883.

The pictures of the Finnish Art Series were sold in various sizes as prints mounted on cardboard. Nyblin also started printing photographs in formats suitable for hanging them on walls, and so making them echo the paintings they so often captured, a practice which helped to establish photographs as interior decor. In 1882, Nyblin adapted a new technique by changing the wet collodion plates into new dry plates that were more handy and quick to use.

From 1889 onwards, Nyblin published a printed catalogue of his photographs. Similar to a mail order catalogue or an online store of that time, it included samples of each picture on sale and information about the different sizes available.

Daniel Nyblin took an interest in painting and had also studied art at a younger age. The Nyblin collection at the Finnish National Gallery includes a picture of one his pastels, Madonna and Child (1899).

Nyblin mainly photographed the contemporary art of his day and often took the pictures when the artworks were newly-completed or first exhibited. As art exhibitions and museums were largely concentrated in Helsinki and a few other towns, the prints made it possible for those living in the rural areas to familiarise themselves with new Finnish art. It also made the artworks displayed in the capital almost simultaneously within the reach of the potential buyers in other parts of the country.

Through his photography, Nyblin’s role in spreading the knowledge of Finnish art at the turn of the nineteenth century became significant. The photographs disseminated the image of Finland and Finnish culture while also acting as a link in the awakening of the national consciousness and idea of Finnishness during the autonomous period under Russia.

Albert Edelfelt, After the Bath (In the Nursery), 1885, oil on canvas. The State Hermitage Museum. Saint Petersburg. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate, 390 x 340 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1885. The painting was ordered by Alexander III, the emperor of Russia.


Nyblin’s relationships with Finnish artists were good. For them, the photographing of their art and spreading of the prints meant extra income and visibility. Nyblin also took into account the rights of the artists and the first copyright law in Finland came into effect in 1881.

Nyblin usually photographed the artworks at his own studio despite the connections to the exhibitions they might have had. This can be seen in the glass negatives where a large houseplant or a piece of furniture of the studio is visible behind the frames of a painting.

See for example Fredrik Ahlstedt, Break during the Harvest, 1884, oil on canvas, Ateneum Art Museum. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate, 165 x 119 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1885. You can see a couch in the background.

Nyblin himself saw his work as making a photographic replica of the original artwork. He marked the prints with a text “photograph of the original by Daniel Nyblin, Helsinki”. On the glass plates he usually wrote the name of the artist or of the work of art or both.

The documentary value of the negatives has increased during the decades. Many of them are the first or oldest surviving pictures of the artworks in question. Owing to Nyblin’s activity there are also pictures of artworks that have later gone missing or been destroyed.

Maria Wiik, Obstacle, 1884, oil on canvas, whereabouts unknown. Glass negative, wet collodion plate, 326 x 392 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1884. The painting was sold to Russia in 1896 from an exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod and its later whereabouts are unknown.

In some cases, the photographs taken by Nyblin enable us to see the first or original version of a painting before the artist altered it in one way or another. An example of this is the painting nowadays known as A Day in July (1891) painted by the well-known Finnish artist Eero Järnefelt (1863–1937). In the painting, now owned by the Hämeenlinna Art Museum, the second person, a girl, does not appear, though she is visible on the glass negative. Järnefelt later painted over her with only the boy remaining in the painting.

Eero Järnefelt, A Day in July, 1891, also formerly known as Slash-Burning, oil on canvas. Hämeenlinna Art Museum. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate 121 x 165 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1891.

The most recent plates of the artworks date from 1904. The following year, in 1905, Nyblin divided his enterprise into two different corporations and divested one half to his children. These changes following the death of his wife in 1904 may have been the reason he stopped photographing artworks. It was probably during the same year that he and Edlund sold the negatives to the Finnish publishing house Werner Söderström (in Porvoo) who kept them for 80 years. In 1983, they were donated to the museum, nowadays the Finnish National Gallery.

Magnus Enckell, The Lovers, ca. 1904, oil on canvas, owner unknown. Glass negative, dry plate, 389 x 277 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1904.

There are 963 glass negatives in the Nyblin collection at the Finnish National Gallery with multiple plates of some of the artworks. A selection of the pictures were shown in the exhibition Reflections in Glass – Daniel Nyblin, Photographer of Artworks in 19th Century Finland at the Ateneum Art Museum in 1999, with a book published under the same name.

All the glass plates were photographed and the positives were made digitally at the Finnish National Gallery between 2009–2012. The process was extremely slow and demanded special expertise as some of the plates had been broken during the decades.

At the Finnish National Gallery, the negatives themselves were treated as objects. It is because of this that every plate was photographed in its entirety with all the markings on the margins and the broken plates remaining unrepaired in the pictures.

An example of a broken negative: Adolf von Becker, Young mother, 1874, oil, owner unknown. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate 392 x 341 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1890.

The handprint of Nyblin still stands out to us through the finishing touches of different versions and colours that Nyblin made before printing – as well as through his fingerprints.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Mother by the bed of her sick child, 1888. Private collection. Glass negative (and positive), dry plate, 119 x 164 mm, Daniel Nyblin ca. 1888. The red finishing touch can clearly be seen on the negative.

The digital pictures of Nyblin’s glass negatives (and positives) and their metadata were published as open data by the Finnish National Gallery in autumn 2012 in connection with the Open Knowledge Festival organised in Helsinki. The pictures will be available on Flickr later this year. There is also a special web site on the collection (, only in Finnish). The copyrights of some of the artists represented in the Nyblin collection are still effective and therefore some of the plates have not been published. The pictures will be added both as an open data and to the website as the copyrights of the artworks expire.


Hanna-Leena Paloposki works as the chief curator and archive- and library manager at the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki. She has a PhD in art history from the University of Helsinki.


See more images from the Finnish National Gallery’s Daniel Nyblin collection here, and download them all here.

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 Creative Culture Jam

Lieke Ploeger - June 29, 2015 in eSpace, Events/Workshops, Featured

On 9-10 July the Europeana Creative project is organising its final showcase event, the Europeana Creative Culture Jam at the Austrian National Library in Vienna. For the past 2,5 years, the project has worked on exploring ways for creative industries to connect with cultural heritage, by organising challenges, developing pilot apps and games and starting up the online laboratory space Europeana Labs.


The Culture Jam event will mix inspiring keynote talks with lively discussion on topics ranging from copyright to co-creation and from living labs to business models. Some OpenGLAM-related highlights from the program include:

  • Keynote: The Crypto Cosmic Culture Jam by Michael Edson, CLIR / Open Knowledge / Smithsonian – OpenGLAM Advisory Board   Europeana aspires to transform the way Europeans access and participate in culture, but what about the rest of the cosmos? In this talk, Michael Peter Edson explores the cost and consequences of jamming culture at a galactic scale.
  • How to Make an Impact Online – 5 Reasons to Set Your Content Free. With Examples! by Joris Pekel, Europeana Foundation – OpenGLAM working group coordinator  Joris Pekel will take a closer look at the different reasons why cultural institutions chose to make their digital collections available for free in the highest possible quality and – more importantly – the results from doing so.
  • Set Art Free! by Merete Sanderhoff, Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen - OpenGLAM Advisory Board   Following the release of 25,000 images of artworks in the public domain, the national gallery of Denmark (SMK) partnered with Europeana Creative to stage the event SMK Friday Set art free! showing how their collections can be re-used creatively when they are set free.

In addition, Culture Jam will also feature talks on fellow creative projects Europeana Food & Drink and Europeana Space. Everyone with a creative, practical or strategic interest in open data, cultural heritage or digital culture is invited to join – sign up is possible through this page.



Dutch cultural heritage reaches millions every month

Maarten Brinkerink - June 23, 2015 in Case Studies, Featured, News

The cultural sector increasingly makes its collections available as open data and open content. These types of initiatives bring along the growing need of measuring their impact. On either a national or international level, there currently is no single body that tracks this type of data across collections. In 2014, the Open Culture Data network therefore started an exploratory research project on the (im-)possibilities of measuring the impact of open cultural data. The project was called GLAMetrics – metrics for gallery, library, archive and museum collections.

Image: Een menigte aanschouwt een komeet door Jan Luyken (1698) Collection: Amsterdam Museum, CC-0.

Image: Een menigte aanschouwt een komeet door Jan Luyken (1698)
Collection: Amsterdam Museum, CC-0.

This initiative meant the beginning of a quantitative analysis of the consequences of opening cultural data – an evolution that affects the entire sector, both nationally and on an international level. This blog post presents the initial outcomes of our research into the reach and reuse of culture heritage from The Netherlands through Wikimedia projects.

Wikimedia projects are the different projects that come out of the Wikimedia community. Among them we find the different language versions of Wikipedia – such as and – and projects such as WikiSource and WikiData.


In order to be reusable within Wikimedia projects, open culture data sets need to be published as open content on the media repository Wikimedia Commons. In October 2014 we set up and distributed a survey to all members of the Open Culture Data network to inventorise which of their open culture data had been added to Wikimedia Commons.

Thirty representatives from institutions in the network filled out this survey. Eleven respondents currently have one or multiple open culture data sets on Wikimedia. Three institutions indicated they’re currently working on their first publication.

Subsequentially, we collaborated with Wikimedia Netherlands to complete, as far as possible, the overview of Dutch cultural institutions on Wikimedia.

Wikimedia offers various publicly available instruments to gather data on the reach and reuse of materials within the various Wikimedia projects. From November 2014 onwards, Open Culture Data has applied these measurement instruments for Dutch institutions on Wikimedia Commons. More specifically, we used the tools BaGLAMa 2 and GLAMorous, both created by Magnus Manske.

  • BaGLAMa 2 shows on which Wikimedia project pages content from Wikimedia Commons is being reused and how often these pages are requested.
  • GLAMorous shows per set or collection how much material is available for reuse and how often this happens.

As a sidenote to these instruments: Wikimedia doesn’t currently measure mobile traffic well. Wikimedia also doesn’t discern between page consultations by visitors or by machines – such as search engines that perform indexing. According to estimates this constitutes up to 15% of all traffic. Also, Open Culture Data was not able to de-duplicate Wikimedia project pages that use materials from more than one institution. Our assumption is that these two deviations cancel each other out and result in the numbers not being lower than what’s mentioned below. It is our expectation that Wikimedia will share more data about reach and reuse in the future, such as anonimised data about user behaviour on the pages that use Dutch heritage content. This would give us a better insight into how much time and attention users spend on consulting specific heritage objects.

Preliminary outcomes

From November 2014 onwards (the moment we started recording data) there were 23 Dutch heritage institutions who provided one or multiple collections for reuse in Wikimedia projects by publishing them on Wikimedia Commons.

Some institutions have had a presence on Wikimedia for only a few months: the Catharijneconvent museum joined in February as the 24th institution and the Textielmuseum in April as the 25th. At the same time, the first Dutch institution on Wikimedia Commons, the Tropenmuseum, has been providing content for reuse for more than 56 months.

To date, close to 580,000 Dutch digital heritage objects have been added to Wikimedia Commons. This means that from the total collection of media items on Wikimedia Commons – close to 24.5 million - around 2.4% consists of Dutch digital heritage. The large majority of this Dutch offer are images, but it also holds close to 2,000 audio recordings and 4,500 videos.

Thanks to GLAMetrics we now know quite a bit more about the reach and reuse of these materials:

  • In the first quarter of 2015 the objects of these institutions were used on approximately 76,000 Wikimedia project pages. During the observed quarter, this number has grown by about 2.5%.
  • In the first quarter of 2015, these pages were requested more than 200 million times, or approx. 67.5 million consultations per month. The Wikimedia projects together receive approximately 20.5 billion consultations per month, so the portion of pages using Dutch heritage is approximately 0.3%.
  • These pages together reuse close to 37.500 unique objects, or close to 7% of the total offer.
  • In total, Dutch digital heritage objects have been reused close to 100.000 times on a Wikimedia project page.

For the entire measurement period, Wikimedia also offers data about the number of consultations for the pages that contain selected objects. Although not each and every Dutch heritage collection has been measured from its point of origin onwards (the difference ranges from just a few to an impressive 56 months), the outcome already is quite impressive: pages reusing Dutch digital heritage have been consulted 1.9 billion times in total!

GLAM expectations

Around 7% of the total combined total of Dutch digital heritage objects on Wikipedia is currently being used on one or several Wikimedia project pages. Based on the assembled data we can pronounce a few preliminary statements for institutions that are considering opening up (part of) their collections via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Reuse differs among collections. For some collections we see that up to 50% is being reused, while others experience no reuse at all. Especially in the initial phases a reuse total of 7% appears to be a realistic expectation for digital heritage.
  • For these 7% of reused materials, for each digital object one can expect a reach of more than 2.100 consultations per month. On a yearly basis, this translates into 25.000 consultations per object.
  • The exact impact is influenced by the extent to which the institution stimulates reuse by communicating with the community and organising activities.
  • Based on the above, an institution can, with a donation of 1.000 objects, expect a monthly reach of up to 150.000 consultations of pages holding their materials.


As a follow-up on this first blog post, we intend to give quarterly updates on how the reach and reuse of Dutch cultural heritage materials on the various Wikimedia projects develops. We also hope to present increasingly broad outcomes as we gather more data along the way.

We’ll investigate if we can gather data from older collections on Wikimedia retroactively to identify developments on the middle and long term. We also aim to compare the use on different Wikipedia language versions and other Wikimedia projects and to measure what percentage of the totality of Wikipedia is being enriched with Dutch digital heritage. Finally, we aim to study the influence of activities around content donations or heritage institutions to Wikimedia on reuse (as, for instance, organising edit-a-thons).

In accordance with Open Culture Data’s vision, all the data assembled for this investigation have been made available for reuse under a CC-0 license.

We are highly interested to hear your feedback, suggestions or further analyses!


Written by Maarten Brinkerink (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) with thanks to Lotte Belice Baltussen, Jesse de Vos, Kennisland‘s Maarten Zeinstra and Open State Foundation‘s Tom Kunzler for their suggestions.

This post originally appeared on the Open Cultuur Data blog in Dutch and was translated to English by Erwin Verbruggen.

More info

For more info about the Open Culture Data initiative, see:

OpenGLAM Open Collections

Lieke Ploeger - June 11, 2015 in eSpace, Featured, News

With the rise of the open movement, more and more cultural institutions are providing online access to their content and allow digital resources to be freely reused. Libraries, archives and museums publish their collections through their own websites and can make it findable through portals such as Europeana and DPLA as well. Through our OpenGLAM Open Collections page, we provide a global and curated overview of all this open cultural content online.



Our Open Collections page collates details of open collections from around the world that provide digital scans or photos that can be freely used without any restrictions. We also include links to resources that aggregate open cultural data collections together in a central repository, such as Europeana and DPLA (under ‘Lists of collections’). We have just completed a restyle of the page: it is now delivered through the wonderful Omeka software platform. This means you easily search, locate collections on a map, comment on or tag collections. Searching by tag allows you to quickly look for material that fits your purpose. You can either visit the page through the OpenGLAM site, or directly through


When we call these collections open, we mean they are licensed in a way that is compliant with the Open Definition. Popular ones for data include CC-0 and for content CC-BY or CC-BY-SA are often used. A part of the collections fully meet our OpenGLAM principles, for OpenGLAM_badgeofapprovalexample by keeping works for which copyright has expired in the public domain by not adding new rights to them. These collections have been awarded the OpenGLAM Badge of Approval: you can find an overview of them here:


Currently we have 53 open collections and 9 lists of open collections in our database. We’re quite sure that there is a lot more open collections out there, and we would love to add them with your help. If you know of an open collection that should be in here, you can sign up for our Omeka platform through this link, and then fill in the form on the Contribute page for your open collection to be added.

When a collection has been featured in our Curator’s Choice series, this blog has been linked to the collection in Omeka. When you contribute a new collection and are interested in having a Curator’s Choice’ post written about it, you can then let us know by ticking a box, so it can be considered for a future post.

Future work

The work on the Open Collections page will be further expanded on through the work Open Knowledge is carrying out within the Europeana Space project. Open Knowledge will provide the Open Content Exchange Platform, with collated public domain and open content materials related to the value of digital public domain and best practices around open licensing. This platform will also be delivered using Omeka: a first version will be online soon.


The Forth Bridge: Building an Icon

Alison Metcalfe - June 2, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


Alison Metcalfe, curator in the Manuscript and Archive Collections department of the National Library of Scotland, presents the Library’s collection of photographs recording the construction of the Forth Bridge, the first major structure in Britain to be made of steel and a milestone in civil engineering.


The National Library of Scotland’s collections are rich in visually appealing material, and the volume of public domain collections available online continues to grow steadily. Available via the digital gallery, the Library’s digitised collections cover a plethora of subjects, from Mary Queen of Scots’ last letter, to Scottish theatre posters, and from medieval treasure Murthly Hours to photographs taken at the Western Front during WW1.

One particularly popular set of historic images is our Scottish bridge series, which consists of late-19th-century photographs of the Tay and Forth Bridges. These images illustrate how success and failure went hand-in-hand in engineering during the Victorian era. The photographs of the Tay Bridge were taken in the aftermath of the notorious disaster of 1879, when the bridge collapsed during high winds, sweeping a train and its passengers into the river below.

“Steam engine salvaged from the Tay”; from a series of 91 photographs of the wreckage after the Tay Bridge disaster, commissioned by John Trayner on behalf of the Board of Trade – Source.

A few years later, Philip Phillips’ photographs captured the construction of the Forth Bridge, as its steel superstructure gradually emerged from the Forth estuary. The son of Joseph Phillips, a contractor on the bridge who specialised in ironwork, Philip Phillips reproduced this series of 40 silver gelatin prints in his album The Forth Bridge illustrations, 1886-1887.

Taken by Phillips at weekly or fortnightly intervals, the photographs show close-up and distance views of the superstructure, cantilevers, lifting platforms and viaduct, and include an artist’s impression of the completed bridge.

“General view from back of Newhalls Inn, South Queensferry”. This image, looking north, shows the main towers nearing completion – Source.

Now an iconic part of the Scottish landscape, the Forth Bridge stands as testament to the ingenuity and determination of Victorian engineers, and recently celebrated the 125th anniversary of its opening on 4 March 1890. To mark this occasion, a small exhibition at the Library explores the engineering challenges involved in the construction of the Forth Bridge through a selection of photographs, designs, reports and sketches, including the Philip Phillips photographs from the Library’s digital gallery.

Designing the Bridge

Crossing the Forth had long been problematic for the travelling public in the east of Scotland. Ferries had provided a connection across the river for many centuries, and improvements to piers in the estuary in the early part of the 19th century made it possible for ships to dock irrespective of tides. Alternative crossings were also proposed during this period, with the river surveyed for a tunnel in 1806, and a design for a suspension bridge considered in 1818.

Detail from “Plans and sections for a bridge of chains proposed to be thrown over the Frith of Forth at Queensferry”, James Anderson, 1818.

The real catalyst for the provision of a fixed and reliable crossing came later in the century with the spread of the rail network, as several railway companies vied to provide a seamless rail link from London to the north of Scotland. At the same time, developments in engineering and manufacture of steel meant that dreams of a bridge on the scale required to enable trains to cross the Forth and Tay could become a reality.

Railway engineer Thomas Bouch proposed bridges for both the Tay and the Forth estuaries. In 1873, the Forth Bridge Company was established to build a bridge to Bouch’s design. William Arrol, with a number of successful construction projects already to his name, was appointed as main building contractor. Construction on the shores of the Forth was underway when, on a stormy December night in 1879, Bouch’s recently completed Tay Bridge collapsed with the loss of an estimated 75 lives.

Work on the Forth Bridge was halted immediately, and the subsequent public inquiry into the disaster found the Tay Bridge to be “badly designed, badly constructed, and badly maintained”. Confidence in Bouch was irreparably damaged, and his design for the Forth Bridge was officially abandoned in 1881.

“Fallen girders, Tay Bridge”. The damage to the bridge’s structure is clearly seen in this image, one of the series commissioned after the disaster which show in detail the destroyed piers and girders, wreckage of the train and steam engine and other parts salvaged from the Tay – Source.

When alternative proposals for a bridge were invited, Benjamin Baker and Sir John Fowler submitted a design to the Forth Bridge Company on the cantilever and central girder principle. Fowler and Baker were well-established engineers whose long list of achievements included a substantial role in constructing the London underground rail network.

For many years an exponent of the use of cantilevers as the most effective means of constructing long-span bridges, Baker devised the human cantilever to explain the principle at a lecture to the Royal Institution in London in 1887. As he explained, “when a load is put on the central girder by a person sitting on it, the men’s arms and the anchorage ropes come into tension, and the men’s bodies from the shoulders downwards and the sticks come into compression.” The man seated in the centre was Kaichi Watanabe, a Japanese engineer and student of Fowler and Baker who was in the UK to learn Western engineering techniques.

Human cantilever illustration, from “Bridging the Firth of Forth”, Benjamin Baker, 1887.


The first major engineering challenge was the construction of the three main stone piers on which the bridge’s superstructure would sit. Half could be built using a dam, where water was excluded from the working area by means of cement bags and liquid grout poured in by divers.

The depth of water and conditions of the river bed at the remaining piers meant that a pneumatic or compressed air method was chosen, using wrought iron caissons to enable men to work below the water level. Once in position on the bed of the Forth, a steel edge at the bottom of each caisson extended seven feet below the concrete filled floor. Water was pumped from the space and replaced by compressed air, creating a small chamber in which men could work. Baker used this diagram of the inside of a caisson to illustrate their operation to his lecture audience at the Royal Institution in London.

Cross section illustrating a caisson, from “Bridging the Firth of Forth”, Benjamin Baker, 1887.

The sinking of caissons was a potentially hazardous affair. One of the Queensferry caissons tilted accidentally whilst being positioned, and the work required to right the cylinder took three months. During this recovery work the caisson ruptured as water was being pumped out, and two men drowned when the damaged structure flooded.

Once the foundations were complete, the masonry piers above the waterline were constructed of Aberdeen granite backed with concrete and rubble, and measured 55 feet in diameter at the bottom and 49 feet at the top, with a height of 36 feet. Each contained 48 steel bolts to hold down the superstructure.


Work on the superstructure began in 1886, starting with the main towers. It was not possible to erect scaffolding, so the structure supported itself and provided a platform for the workmen as the cantilevers gradually extended outwards from each main tower towards its neighbour.

“Fife cantilever with No. 1 strut and lifting platform nearly up to rail level” – Source.

The robust straddle-legged bridge was designed to withstand the enormous pressure placed on it, not just from the weight of trains that would pass over, but from the wind speeds to which it would be subjected. To strengthen the structure further against the wind, the whole was “laced together by lattice girders”, which help give the bridge its distinctive appearance.

“Queensferry cantilever at full height from north end of approach viaduct”. Phillips describes this as “one of the finest in the series”. It shows the construction of the one of the three main towers, and its latticework, in fine detail – Source.

Phillips’ photographs provide an understanding of the means by which the superstructure was assembled, coupled with illustrating the precariousness of the position in which those assembling the superstructure were working. Exposed to all weather conditions and the dangers of working at height, accidents were frequent.

At the peak of activity up to 4,600 men worked on the bridge, though many were employed for very short periods of time. The official figure of the total number of fatalities was 57, though recent research suggests this number should be higher, and many more were seriously injured.

“Birds’-eye view of Inchgarvie and surrounding country”. Phillips took the opportunity of a visit of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and a period of fine weather to take this shot from the top of the completed Queensferry tower – Source.


After rigorous testing the bridge was officially opened by the Prince of Wales, who proclaimed that it “marks the triumph of science and engineering skill over obstacles of no ordinary kind.”

At the lunch which followed, the Prince announced that both Benjamin Baker and William Arrol would be knighted, and Sir John Fowler created a baronet, in recognition of their role in the success of the project.

Luncheon menu, 4 March 1890. Illustrating both the Forth Bridge, and the replacement Tay Bridge, completed in 1887.

A nomination has been made to have the Forth Bridge inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a decision is expected this summer. Regardless of the outcome, the bridge remains both a remarkable engineering triumph and an iconic part of the Scottish landscape, recognised the world over.

“Imaginative depiction of the Forth Rail Bridge”. This artist’s impression of the completed bridge was included as the title page of Philip Phillips’ The Forth Bridge illustrations, 1886-1887Source.

Alison Metcalfe is a curator in the Manuscript and Archive Collections department of the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Her varied remit includes archives relating to science and engineering, encompassing collections such as the business archive of the lighthouse-building Stevenson family, the papers of Scottish engineers like John Rennie and Thomas Telford, and of scientists such as Robert Watson-Watt, pioneer of radar technology.

See more public domain photographs from the National Library of Scotland on Wikimedia Commons.

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.


Mix it up! – a pop-up open culture exhibition

Lieke Ploeger - May 29, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured

This blogpost was contributed by Sanna Marttila (Aalto University of Art and Design, AvoinGLAM and OpenGLAM working group member).

Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK), Aalto University ARTS and Europeana Creative challenged a group of creative minds to rethink and remix historical artworks in the collections of the National Gallery of Denmark. The novel interpretations and appropriations will be presented at the experimental Mix it up! open culture exhibition at SMK 29-31 May, 2015.

The invited 13 artists and designers have created a wide range of new artworks and design artefacts built upon copyright free pictures of art from SMK’s collections. These works – including jogging suits, 22 skies from Danish “Golden Age” paintings projected onto the ceiling, newly knitted tapestries and mash-up collages – will be exhibited side by side with the original works in the collection.

The opening party is part of the SMK Fridays: Set art free! event on May 29th at 4 pm–10 pm. On this night the museum visitors can take a tour with designers and artists, who give talks about their remixes and engage in dialogue of their creative practice.

Artwork by Jamie Seaboch / EyeQ Innovations CC BY-SA

Artwork by Jamie Seaboch / EyeQ Innovations CC BY-SA 4.0