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Hack the Book Festival

Lieke Ploeger - November 10, 2015 in eSpace, Events/Workshops, Featured

The Europeana Space project is exploring different ways of reusing digital cultural heritage by running pilots in six thematic areas (TV, Photography, Dance, Games, Open and Hybrid Publishing and Museums).  From 22-24 January 2016, the Open and Hybrid Publishing Pilot is organising the Hack the Book Festival in Athens, Greece, inviting designers, artists, publishers, programmers, authors, poets, hackers and entrepreneurs to redefine the book as an evolving, visual and open medium.


Books are increasingly “re-invented”, moving to a hybrid, ‎phygital (physical + digital) phase. The Open and Hybrid Publishing pilot has for example created Photomediations: An Open Book, in which a coffee-table book is redesigned as an online experience to produce a creative resource that explores the dynamic relationship between photography and other media, using open content from various online repositories such as Europeana, Wikipedia Commons and Flickr Commons. In this way, the book showcases the possibility of the creative reuse of image-based digital resources.

The Hack the Book festival challenges users to create their own publications, finding the technical and legal limitations and learning to use data sources in order to create inspiring and innovative open-access books. The festival will include workshops, talks and a 2-day hackathon that will focus on creating a phygital book from scratch using the infrastructure offered by Europeana Space by remixing and building upon Europeana content. Participants are invited to rethink the book by working on four different dimensions / challenges. Each team participating in Hackathon’s final stage is asked to address each and every one of these dimensions:

  • #BookDesign: What kind of an object is the book? How do the physical object and its digital extensions merge into a new hybrid? What sort of aesthetic experience do we want to invoke to the user/reader? How could we use smart materials in order to construct a hybrid phygital object?
  • #OpenHardware: How can you address the object-environment interaction through your design? How can you use Arduino or RasberryPi to its full potential so as to make the book part of an interactive network of objects  that provide the user with a coherent operation experience?
  • #API: How can you connect the object or the cluster of objects that you have created to open data and Europeana’s content? How can you implement the application programming interfaces (APIs) and the programming tools provided by Europeana?
  • #Entrepreneurship and #sustainability: Which is the business model that best supports your prototype? How can you secure your prototype’s sustainability? Which is the social and financial value that could be derived from your prototype? How does your proposal contribute to the expansion of the commons (especially the digital commons)?

The event will take place at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Greece from 22-24 January 2016 and is open to people from different backgrounds such as design, content curation, book art, creative programming and business modelling. On the day before the hackathon, a series of inspiring talks and workshops will take place, focusing on creating value via new publishing models, especially for educational purposes. Among the key topics that will be discussed are educational demonstrators, the eSpace MOOC, innovative practices as well as business modeling through open content.

More information on the event, as well as the registration process, is available from and the hackathon website at

The Legend of the Divine Farmer

Gillian Daniel - November 3, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain

CURATOR’S CHOICE #27: Gillian Daniel for Wellcome Library

Gillian Daniel, Graduate Trainee at the Wellcome Trust, explores the story of Shen Nong, born of a princess and heavenly dragon, and teacher to the ancient Chinese of agriculture and herbal medicine.

Watercolour: Shen Nung seated at the mouth of a cave, dressed in traditional garb made from leaves, holding a branch with leaves and berries in his right hand; anon., {Chinese artist}, 1920. Wellcome Images reference no. V0018486 – Source.

This ca. 1920 watercolour is a copy of an ancient original and can be found in the Library’s Art Collection, along with other visual material featuring the Shen Nong.

Legend has it that Shen Nong (神农), or ‘Divine Farmer’, was one of the Three Sovereigns, a group of mythological rulers and deities from ancient China circa 2852 to 2070 BC who established the Chinese life-arts. Said to have been born the son of a princess and a heavenly dragon, Shen Nong is believed to have taught the ancient Chinese their practices of agriculture, as well as the use of herbal drugs, which became the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine.

The earliest written record connecting Shen Nong to the practice of Chinese herbal medicine is found in the Huai Nan Zi (淮南子), or ‘The Masters of Huainan’, the Chinese philosophical classic from the Han dynasty in 122BCE. The text claims that Shen Nong transformed the ancient people’s diet from one of meat, wild fruits and clams by teaching them how to sow and harvest grains and vegetables. He is also said to have discovered and classified some 365 species of herbs and medicinal plants and is often referred to as the ‘God of Chinese herbal medicine’.

Tea is allegedly one of his great discoveries, as it proved to be the antidote for almost 70 varieties of poisons. Shen Nong discovered tea by accident when the tea leaves from twigs he was using for a fire rose up on a column of hot air and landed in the water he was trying to boil. Being a keen herbalist, he tasted the resulting brew and this became the origins of tea. Shen Nong tasted hundreds of herbs in order to determine their medicinal value.

The story of Shen Nong has been passed down orally for centuries and has been differently embellished throughout histories. Some versions even claim Shen Nong had a see-through stomach that allowed him to see the effects of various herbs on his internal organs. However, by all accounts, because of his tireless efforts, countless herbs are now commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine and knowledge about herbal medicine has been handed down for centuries.

Shen Nong is thought to have charted his long study of herbs in the text Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (神农本草经), which was published in English as The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica, but can be directly translated to mean ‘The Herbal Classic of the Divine Farmer’. Of the ten preeminent pre-modern classics of Chinese medicine, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing is one of the two most important, as it is the locus classicus of Chinese herbal medicine (the second is Huang Di Nei Jing (黄帝内经), published in English as The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor, which is the authoritative text for Chinese medical theory, particularly acupuncture and moxibustion). Because of Shen Nong’s efforts, numerous herbs became routinely used for health care.

Gillian Daniel is a Graduate Trainee at the Wellcome Trust.

This is a post originally published on the Wellcome Library Blog. We highly recommend paying them a little visit for more context and background stories on their wonderful collection.

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. The series is undertaken in partnership with OpenGLAM and made possible through funding from the European Union’s DM2E project.


Online access to cultural heritage now!

Lieke Ploeger - October 28, 2015 in Featured, News

The European Commission is currently working on modernising EU copyright rules as part of its strategy to create a Digital Single Market for Europe. This is a great opportunity to influence the outcomes and make sure that galleries, libraries, museums and archives will be able to make their collections openly available online. That is why Europeana, together with the directors of 29 major cultural heritage institutions have written an Open Letter strongly in favour of updated copyright rules addressed to Commissioner Oettinger, Vice President Ansip and Commissioner Navracsics.


In the letter, they argue that the full potential that cultural collections could achieve in allowing people to share and engage with content, is restricted at the moment due to limitations in current European copyright rules. New copyright rules are needed that make it easier for institutions to provide online access to out-of-commerce works, those works in collections that are not actively exploited by their creators or subsequent rights holders. From the letter:

Improving online access to works that are not available via other channels helps promote creators whilst encouraging new creative activity. (…) A copyright system that locks away large parts of our collections in museums or confines them to physical archives and libraries, that are not always easy to reach, benefits no one. (…) We look forward to working with the Commission and all other stakeholders to create a copyright policy framework that ensures cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed by all; supporting both the role of institutions to share and provide access to other people’s works whilst also safeguarding the legitimate interests of creators and publishers who are key to encouraging and inspiring ongoing cultural exchange.

Additional support is very welcome and can greatly strengthen the ability to influence the outcome: you can add your institution to the list through this page.

Historic Oregon Newspapers: Preserving History While Shaping the Future

Sheila Rabun - October 7, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain

CURATOR’S CHOICE #26: Sheila Rabun from University of Oregon Libraries

Sheila Rabun, Digital Project Manager at the University of Oregon Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Center, gives a tour of the rich and varied history of news media in Oregon.

Image from Chronicling America. The San Francisco call. (San Francisco, Ca.) March 25, 1900, Image 12 – Source.

The Historic Oregon Newspapers online collection contains over 130 newspaper titles from across the state, primarily published before 1923, an era in which Anglo American men dominated the newspaper industry. Racism, sexism, and other modes of discrimination abound in historic newspapers, but hopefully we can learn from the errors and injustices of the past. Most mention of Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, and other cultural groups in Oregon’s early newspapers came from an Anglo viewpoint, and it can be challenging to find other voices in these “first drafts of history.”

A unique article found in a Utah newspaper claims to be written from the perspective of an Oregon woman from the Umatilla tribe (see the ODNP Blog for more info). The Salt Lake Herald. (Salt Lake City, Utah) November 22, 1903, Last Edition, Section Two, Image 9 – Source.

Every detailed inch of a newspaper page—the size, font, layout, rhetoric and writing style, mistakes and typos, advertisements and images—can reveal a plethora of information about the culture in which the newspaper was produced. By providing free, online access to these public domain materials, we are not only enabling a renewed awareness and connection to our collective past, we are also shaping the future of digital preservation and accessibility of public domain primary source documents. While all of the titles in the Historic Oregon Newspapers online collection document Oregon’s cultural heritage, the unique titles highlighted below have played especially crucial roles in shaping Oregon’s history. How much has changed, and what has stayed the same? How has our history shaped the present, and how will we continue to shape the future?

Oregon Spectator. (Oregon City, Or.) 1846-1855

The oldest title in the Historic Oregon Newspapers database is the Oregon Spectator (1846–1855), first published on February 5, 1846 in Oregon City, thirteen years before Oregon became a state. The first newspaper to be published on the west coast (California’s first paper came seven months later; Washington had no newspaper until 1852), the Spectator was initiated by the newly formed Oregon Printing Association, consisting of several prominent citizens of Oregon Territory, including Francis W. Pettygrove, who gave the city of Portland its name, William G. T’Vault, the Spectator’s first editor, and Oregon’s first territorial governor, George Abernethy, whose influence dominated the publication. The paper’s motto, “Westward the Star of Empire takes its way,” accurately captured the overall tone of the publication.

The Oregon Spectator was the first newspaper to be published on the west coast. Oregon Spectator. (Oregon City, Or.) April 30, 1846, Image 1 – Source.


Oregon Free Press. (Oregon City, Or.) 1848-1848

The Spectator’s voice fell short of unbiased reporting, and one of the paper’s editors, George L. Curry, was fired early on for refusing to cater to Governor Abernathy’s political interests. As a direct protest to the Spectator, Curry started the Oregon Free Press in 1848 with the motto: “Here shall the Press the people’s rights maintain, un-awed by influence, and un-bribed by gain.” The Free Press was only published for six months due to the outflow of Oregon readers to the gold mines of California, but Curry went on to become Secretary of the Interior for Oregon Territory as well as one of the youngest governors of Oregon, in 1854. The Spectator and the Free Press laid the foundations for opposition in Oregon’s print journalism between dominant and marginal political and social perspectives of the times.

The Oregon Free Press was only published for 6 months, due to the California gold rush. Oregon free press. (Oregon City, Or.) November 04, 1848, Image 1 – Source.


Willamette Farmer. (Salem, Or.) 1869-1887

The growth of Oregon’s economy, transportation, and natural resource industries can be traced through the pages of titles from various regions of the state, and researchers can witness first-hand the development of forestry, fishing practices, railroads, and Oregon’s mining boom. Salem’s Willamette Farmer (1869–1887) was Oregon’s first paper to focus on environmental, economic, and political issues related to agriculture, and was one of the first publications to point out the trend toward decline in wild salmon populations.

This article from the Willamette Farmer explains the measures that humans must take to ensure the survival of wild salmon.
Willamette farmer. (Salem, Or.) January 07, 1876, Image 3 – Source.


The New Northwest. (Portland, Or.) 1871-1887

The issue of women’s voting rights is prevalent in almost all of Oregon’s early newspapers, but The New Northwest is most prominent in leadership and advocating for equal suffrage, workers’ rights, racial equality, immigration, and human rights, in the face of fierce opposition from the mainstream press. The paper was published in Portland by Abigail Scott Duniway, a women’s rights and human rights advocate who came to Oregon via the Oregon Trail. With the help of Duniway, women in Oregon gained the right to vote in 1912, almost a decade before the United States government passed the 19th amendment. Now remembered as “Oregon’s Mother of Equal Suffrage,” Duniway finally witnessed the passage of the Oregon Proclamation of Women’s Suffrage, which she authored and signed, at the age of 78.

The New Northwest was published with the motto, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free People.”
The New Northwest. (Portland, Or.) December 29, 1881, Image 1 – Source.

Abigail Scott Duniway published The New Northwest, and was instrumental in securing voting rights for women in Oregon.
Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) October 25, 1915, Image 14 – Source.


The West Shore. (Portland, Or.) 1875-1891 / The Illustrated West Shore. (Portland, Or.) 1891

The West Shore, which later became The Illustrated West Shore, was Oregon’s first illustrated journal, ahead of its time in terms of scope, quality and illustrative nature. Although not technically a newspaper, The West Shore was instrumental in drawing attention to the natural wonders and resources of the Pacific Northwest with extensive illustrations and regional literature. The West Shore’s creator, Leopold Samuel, was a German-Jewish immigrant who moved to Portland around 1871 and began printing “alphabetical and illustrated Portland city directories” with countless illustrations, rare for the time period and considered a “regional novelty” due to the technical and costly efforts to print them. Although somewhat short lived, The West Shore provided thousands of people with access to art, literature, poetry and science; an incredible victory in the development of the Pacific Northwest.

The West Shore drew interest to the Pacific Northwest with intriguing and detailed illustrations.
The West Shore. (Portland, Or.) August 01, 1877, Image 1 – Source.


The New Age. (Portland, Or.) 1896-1905 / Portland New Age. (Portland, Or.) 1905-1907

Oregon’s first African American newspapers are also part of the Historic Oregon Newspapers Online collection: The New Age (1896–1905) and subsequently the Portland New Age (1905–1907), published in Portland by Adolphus D. Griffin, offer a unique perspective on Oregon’s cultural history, given that African Americans were legally excluded from the state from 1857–1926. As a leading advocate for African American equality in the Pacific Northwest, Griffin was twice elected as a Republican delegate to the state convention, and his newspaper kept readers aware of the many issues facing America’s black population. The Portland New Age included national news items such as an annual announcement from Booker T. Washington for the National Negro Business League (1906), as well as Griffin’s own freely expressed opinions on African American involvement in business, politics, and academia. Readership extended beyond the greater African American community to include Anglo readers as well.

The New Age/Portland New Age was the first African American newspaper published in Oregon. Portland New Age. (Portland, Or.) September 15, 1906, Image 1 – Source.

The New Age’s readership extended beyond the African American community. The New Age. (Portland, Or.) June 29, 1901, Image 5 – Source.


Weekly Chemawa American. (Chemawa, Or.) 189?-198? / The Chemawa American. (Chemawa, Or.) 19??-current

The student-published newspaper from the Chemawa Indian Boarding School just north of Salem, Oregon, the Weekly Chemawa American featured news articles, literature, and photographs by students who were attending a journalism class taught by school staff. By late 1914, the publication shifted to a monthly schedule, dropping “weekly” from the title to become the Chemawa American. The Chemawa Indian Boarding School is the oldest continually operating Indian Boarding School in the United States, hosting students from throughout the western United States, including special groups of Alaskan natives, Navajo Indians, and in the earliest years, primarily students from Oregon’s tribal reservations. The Weekly Chemawa American and the Chemawa American were digitized in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Title page from the Weekly Chemawa American featuring an article titled, “Preserving Indian Music.”
Weekly Chemawa American. (Chemawa, Or.) February 02, 1906, Image 1 – Source.

Photograph of the Chemawa Indian School band.
The Chemawa American. (Chemawa, Or.) December 01, 1915, Image 2 – Source.


Toveritar. (Astoria, Or.) 19??-1930

Toveritar (The Woman Comrade), a Finnish weekly paper for socialist women, represents the voice of both the early Finnish immigrant population in the Pacific Northwest and the Socialist Party movement in Oregon. Based in Astoria, Oregon, all of the paper’s editors were Finnish women, and it was one of the only Finnish language newspapers for socialist women at the time. Toveritar includes important information on the youth socialist movement and working women’s movement and covers the controversial time period when the Finnish Socialist Federation (SSJ) split from the Socialist Party of America and later associated with the Workers Party of America.

This issue of Toveritar features a poem titled (english translation), “Working Woman: International Women’s Day, March 8.” Toveritar. (Astoria, Or.) February 21, 1922, Image 1 – Source.

From freedom of speech and political and social equality, to the effects of human activity on the natural environment, the stories of history remain with us today, more broadly accessible than ever before. The titles and clippings highlighted here are just the beginning. A treasure trove of historic, public domain newspaper content is available online, just waiting to be discovered!

Sheila Rabun is the Digital Project Manager at the University of Oregon (UO) Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Center (DSC), currently serving as the Interim Director of the DSC. Her work in the DSC involves collaborations with faculty and students from various departments across campus to create interactive websites and digital projects related to the Libraries’ digital collections, in addition to managing the UO Libraries’ digital collections at Oregon Digital and the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program.


About the ODNP

The University of Oregon (UO) Libraries’ Oregon Digital Newspaper Program (ODNP) has taken historical research to the next level by providing free, online access to public domain, keyword searchable, Oregon newspapers, available to a worldwide audience at Historic Oregon Newspapers. Founded in 2009, the ODNP has remained in operation with grant funding from the Library Services and Technology Act, the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, partnerships with local public libraries and heritage organizations, and private donations. The ODNP is also part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), in partnership with the Library of Congress, a collaborative effort to build a free, searchable, digital repository of historic newspaper content from across the United States, starting with publications from 1836–1922. A portion of the historic Oregon newspaper titles digitized to date are currently available on the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website, along with public domain titles from several other states.


Historic Oregon Newspapers: Oregon Digital Newspaper Program blog: Chronicling America: National Digital Newspaper Program: Other States Newspaper websites:
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.

‘What Could Be’: the future of open video collections

Peter Kaufman - September 16, 2015 in eSpace, Featured

The aim of the Europeana Space project is to create new opportunities for employment and economic growth within the creative industries sector based on Europe’s rich digital cultural resources. The project is developing pilots in six thematic areas (TV, Photography, Dance, Games, Open and Hybrid Publishing and Museums) as a means to explore different scenarios for the re-use of digital cultural content, with a special focus on the re-use of content accessible via Europeana.  

This week, Peter Kaufman of Columbia University and Intelligent Television takes us through his thinking on  ‘What Could Be’ the future of open video collections. Read last week’s blog here.


What Could Be

The ultimate metric of openness in video  – that is to say, how open to download, use (noncommercial, commercial), adaptation, and remix (all for no cost to the user) a clip of video might be – is likely to be whether the nonprofit online free encyclopedia Wikipedia accepts it for publication.  Wikipedia, as its boosters note, has a high bar to entry – to pass over it requires rights, permissions, and clearances of the most liberal kind to be in order for the clip in question, but also format choices to have been made where the video codec (the print codex doesn’t, a priori, face this challenge) is itself built from open-source software.  More about all that is here: 

What if all the video produced and published by cultural and educational institutions, but especially recordings of classroom lectures, were available for such purposes, and the entire world of knowledge production from well-funded, often publicly funded learning institutions were being built on such a principle of free access to knowledge?  That world is not here, but it could be, and those of us involved in media production at such institutions might want to consider formulating a kind of code of best practices where goals of this nature might be ratified by management teams who recognize the singular power of the web today in advancing a more modern form of enlightenment.

At Columbia, the major online courses that we are beginning to build around video lectures are taking the definition of open that characterized open courseware of the previous decades and bringing it more in line with its more modern, if more orthodox, Wikipedia-friendly formulation.  An entire semester of richly produced (three cameras?!), illustrated, transcribed, and annotated video from a bestselling Columbia historian – Eric Foner – is now available for free automatically for almost the full range of use and reuse, with the notable exception – a frequent stumbling block – of commercial use (that being forbidden without advance contact and agreement).  The deed of license on online sites where video can be seen – YouTube included – reads as follows:

“The Civil War and Reconstruction” course series is Copyright © 2014 and 2015, Eric Foner and the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Except where otherwise noted. Professor Foner’s course lecture videos in the series are licensed with the Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA 4.0, which means that anyone anywhere may copy, share, adapt, and remix the videos and the videos’ key media components, including transcripts, without having to ask for prior permission, as long as such sharing is done for noncommercial purposes and the original author, work, and copyright and Creative Commons notice above are cited. For more information, visit:

More about all that is here.

There are thousands of marvelous lectures available around the world.  There are thousands that were never created – Columbia faculty such as Jacques Barzun, Edward Said, Meyer Shapiro, Lionel Trilling (I speak only of humanists; the lists go on . . .) were never systematically recorded in their own time and for posterity.  What if the courses that we invest in producing – many watchable through links posted here ( – were open to be open?  What a doorway that would be to build!  What a house!  What a temple!


For more information on the Europeana Space TV-pilot, read here.  Read more about the Europeana Space Television Hackathon that took place in May 2015 here and video report on the Hacking Culture Bootcamp here.  Europeana Space is particularly interested in seeing more television/film/broadcast released and reused by the creative industries.

Television, film, broadcasting – where are the open collections?

Emma Beer - September 10, 2015 in eSpace, Featured

Blog compiled by Emma Beer

The aim of the Europeana Space project is to create new opportunities for employment and economic growth within the creative industries sector based on Europe’s rich digital cultural resources. The project is developing pilots in six thematic areas (TV, Photography, Dance, Games, Open and Hybrid Publishing and Museums) as a means to explore different scenarios for the re-use of digital cultural content, with a special focus on the re-use of content accessible via Europeana.

So what open collections of film, moving images and broadcast collections are available in Europe and beyond for creative industries and other users?

Still from Volksherstel Amsterdam Title: Volksherstel Amsterdam Licence: Public Domain

Still from Volksherstel Amsterdam (licence: Public Domain)

Open collections are collections which can be (re)used for any purpose, subject only, at most, to the requirement to give credit to the author/s and/or making any resulting work available under the same terms as the original work.  Providing truly open collections in television, film and broadcasting is notoriously complex for myriad legal, technical and cultural reasons.  Some initiatives work towards ‘open’ content or fully open metadata within a particular sector, such as for educational use.  Initiatives such as EUscreen make their metadata openly available. While streaming content for these metadata records is made available online, only a very small subset of EUscreens’ offering is openly available for reuse.  Others provide collections that are only ‘open’ for reusers for non-commercial purposes.   But how many collections are actually fully open for re-use by the creative industries?

We can only hope that initiatives that demonstrate a move towards the principle of ‘open’ or ‘reuse’, including Europeana Space, and research paper’s such as the Yellow Milkmaid, will encourage wholesale open content and open metadata  initiatives in the audiovisual sector to flourish.  We’ve selected a few of these initiatives to highlight here with contributions from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Research and Education Space from the BBC/Jisc/BUFVC, and WGBH and Library of Congress. Aside from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision example, none of these projects result immediately in open content (according to the open definition) for creative industry reuse (the focus of Europeana Space), but they provide concrete examples of a movement towards more open content and sometimes, adopt an open metadata principle in full.  

In our next blogpost,  Peter Kaufman of Columbia University and Intelligent Television takes us through his thinking on  ‘What Could Be’ for the future of video open collections.

Do you know of other initiatives?  Write in and tell us!  


The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Experimentation with open distribution of digital audiovisual heritage, within the context of Images for the Future, started with the initiative from Sound and Vision and Kennisland in 2008 to develop Open Images – an open media platform that offers online access to audiovisual archive material to stimulate creative reuse. In April 2009 a first version of the platform was demonstrated at the inaugural Open Video Conference in New York.

Open Images as a media distribution platform utilized a fully open stack: the software components, media formats, metadata standards, content licensing and its API are all open for reuse. Sound and Vision uses the platform to openly distribute over 3,000 items coming from its historical newsreel collection (using either a CC-BY-SA license or, where copyright has expired, marked with a PD Mark). In total the platform contains over 5,000 items, thanks to contributions by other organization like EYE, Dutch public broadcaster VPRO and a selection of partners from the EUscreen project.

Still from Bevrijding stad Groningen (licence: Public Domain)

Still from Bevrijding stad Groningen (licence: Public Domain)

Since the launch of Open Images in 2009 the content has been reused for different purposes. Parts of the collection on Open Images have been duplicated to other media repositories, such as Wikimedia Commons, Internet Archive and Europeana.

A recent look into the reuse on Wikipedia showed that the videos are used to provide audiovisual context information to more than 3,000 articles, not only on the Dutch Wikipedia, but also on more than 70 other language versions of Wikipedia. These articles are viewed more than 4 million times a month. The data and videos from Open Images are also a great source for innovative applications. Creative developers have become even more aware of the existence of Open Images as a basis for new apps since the Open Culture Data initiative started in 2011.

With Open Images, Sound and Vision and Kennisland have shown the great potential of opening up audiovisual heritage for reuse. However, apart from some select international experiments, public broadcasting worldwide is still lagging behind in opening up their archival footage when it comes to exploring the potential of opening up their public media productions.

Maarten Brinkerink

  • Public Participation and Innovative Access Expert
  • The Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision
  • Twitter: @mbrinkerink


The Research and Education Space

The Research and Education Space is a BBC/Jisc/BUFVC initiative to build a platform that makes a wide range of licensed digital material from a range of significant collections available for research and teaching within the UK. It will do this by bringing together published catalogues that are available as linked open data to offer improved search across collections.

RES does not require the digital assets themselves to be licensed openly, only that they are licensed for educational use within the UK. The catalogues themselves need to be both linked data and openly licensed so that they can be aggregated and held locally where needed, and so that anyone can build on the aggregated data for their own purposes.

Bill Thompson


Make Film – Greatest Generation

This project, hosted by the education charity Into Film along with the BFI, BBC Learning and the British Council, invites children aged 7-11 to record interviews with members of the wartime generation and combine the footage with curated Britain on Film archive clips (only available for viewing in the UK, and for download in UK primary schools) to create their own short documentaries. For more information, visit


The American Archive of Public Broadcasting

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting is a collaboration between WGBH and the Library of Congress with a long-term vision to preserve and make accessible significant historical content created by public media, and to coordinate a national effort to save at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity.

The initial collection of 40,000 hours of digitized content from over 100 organizations, mostly TV and radio stations, is available for viewing on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH.  In October, through the website:, over 5,000 items from about 32 contributing organizations will be accessible and available for streaming online for educational and scholarly research only.  Importantly, however, the metadata will be made openly available.

Much of the content highlights local communities, politics, and social issues across the country in the form of news, talk shows, and public affairs programs. We plan to continue to add more content on an ongoing basis to improve the metadata and assess content and rights beyond the initial launch.

Karen Cariani


Still from Volksherstel Amsterdam (licence: Public Domain)

For more information on the Europeana Space TV-pilot, read here.  Read more about the Europeana Space Television Hackathon that took place in May 2015 here and video report on the Hacking Culture Bootcamp here.  Europeana Space is particularly interested in seeing more television/film/broadcast released and reused by the creative industries.

OpenGLAM-related events: Autumn 2015

Lieke Ploeger - September 3, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured, Uncategorized

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 some of the most interesting conferences and meet-ups you can participate in this autumn. If you know of an event that should be in our calendar, please notify us by adding it here


2 October: Sharing is Caring: Right to Remix? (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Sharing is Caring is an annual seminar on collaboration and sharing in the cultural heritage sector, bringing together practitioners, researchers, and users of culture to discuss issues of remix culture and copyright, user involvement, and the technological infrastructures for sharing digitised cultural heritage. This year’s edition features some great keynote speakers:

  • Eva van Passel (iMinds – SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel) will talk about how adopting an ‘as open as possible’ philosophy, with respect to rights but without being unnecessarily constraining, can inspire cultural policy and cultural institutions’ digital experimentation
  • Maarten Zeinstra (Kennisland) will discuss the merits of sharing vs. the monopoly of intellectual property rights
  • Melissa Terras (UCL Centre for Digital Humanities) will talk about her experiences in trying to reuse digitised heritage content to make something she likes, wants, and will use – and the frustrating barriers she encountered along the way.

The full programme and abstracts of the keynotes are available from the conference website at

5-8 October: Museums and the Web Asia (Melbourne, Australia)

This is the Asian edition of Museums and the Web (MW), one of the largest conferences in the museum technology field. The annual proceedings of MW conferences have been freely available online since MW’s founding in 1997 and represent one of the most extensive and important repositories of global knowledge, innovation and best practice in digital applications for the cultural sector. The full programme and details of MWA2015 are available from

tepapalogo_900pxx900pxOf special interest to OpenGLAM is the session on Sharing Culture, in which Adrian Kingston and Philip Edgar of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa will present the paper A year of open access images – was it worth it? Since June 2014 Te Papa has been providing open access to over 45,000 high resolution images. This session will address what a years worth of downloads looks like from a user, data, financial, creative and museum perspective. How do the numbers stack up against others internationally, and was it worth it? And of course, will Te Papa keep doing it?

3-4 November: Europeana Annual General Meeting (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

Under the title ‘We are Europeana’, this event provides the opportunity for Europeana and its partners to share, discuss and develop specific areas of mutual interest. On the agenda will be a reflection on the work accomplished in 2015 and a look ahead to the challenges and opportunities for the coming years.

If you have an inspiring idea or topic that you would like to share with other digital heritage professionals, you can submit your idea to the Ignite Talks session (a series of 5-minute presentations) no later than 30 September. More details are available from the conference page.

4-6 November: CopyCamp and The School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright (Warsaw, Poland)

copycamp_2015_en.1ab18bb0e0efThe CopyCamp on 4 November will host a balanced and multi-sided debate over the influence of copyright on social changes taking place around the world, with a diverse audience of representatives of cultural institutions and the media, creative sectors, academic, legal, political and non-governmental circles, and everyone interested in the topic. The aim of the conference is to allow an effective dialogue between all interested parties in the neutral and friendly space encouraging participants to share thoughts and exchange ideas.

On 5-6 November EDRi (European Digital Rights) and Communia are organising a two-day EU copyright educational workshop – the School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright. For the first time in nearly a generation, the EU will update its copyright framework. This is a unique opportunity to reform and modernise Europe’s creaking, outdated, ill-adapted rules. Activists interested in taking up on this opportunity will get a crash course in effective copyright activism during this workshop. EDRi offers a stipendum of maximum 300 EUR to cover transport and accommodation costs for up to 20 participants: application is possible until 6 September (more details are here).

7-8 December: DISH2015 (Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

Digital Strategies for Heritage (DISH) is the biennial international conference on digital heritage and strategies for heritage institutions. The main theme for DISH2015 is Money and Power. The event will discuss what power cultural institutions own, what they are worth, how they can stand their ground in a networked digital world where information is controlled more and more by private companies, and also how the cultural heritage sector can show another side than money and power alone, and should invest in a strong digital public domain and share their digital assets as much as possible.

One of the conference tracks, Lose control, gain influence! states: “We really should be less restrictive about the use and re-use of our collections. It becomes more and more clear that digital assets have to swarm about to really bear fruit.” In addition, the latest results of the OpenGLAM Benchmark survey will be presented at the DISH conference.

spa_tallinn_banner0_alt-624x44310-11 December: Europeana Space 2nd international conference (Tallinn, Estonia)

The second international conference of the Europeana Space project is titled ‘Creative reuse of cultural heritage and contemporary practices: challenges and opportunities in the digital world’.

The event aims to generate new perspectives for the wider re-use of cultural heritage and contemporary practices within a framework of creative experimentation and novel dialogue between multidisciplinary sectors. It will present a critical review of the project’s creative prototypes, focusing on the lessons learnt in their development and move towards sustainable results.

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

Jacob Sarnoff and the Strange World of Anatomical Filmmaking

Miriam Posner - September 2, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain

CURATOR’S CHOICE #25: Miriam Posner for the US National Library of Medicine

Miriam Posner, Digital Humanities program coordinator at UCLA and guest curator at the NLM, on what led a 1920s Brooklyn surgeon to remove the veins from a day-old infant, mount them on a board, and film them being pumped with air.

As a historian of medicine’s visual culture, I’ve seen some weird films. But The Blood Vessels and Their Functions (1924–1925) still took me aback. What would possess someone to mount an infant’s veins on a board and inflate them with air?

The Blood Vessels and Their Functions is one reel of a six-reel series, The Human Body in Pictures. Brooklyn surgeon Jacob Sarnoff (1886–1961) produced this movie atlas of the human body between 1920 and 1924. Sold alongside a textbook and slides, the series was designed as an education tool for physicians-in-training. For The Blood Vessels and Their Function, he attempted a cinematic first: to dramatize the workings of the heart, he removed the veins from a day-old infant, mounted them on a board, and devised an air-pumping system — which he termed “Pneumo-Viscera” — to push air through the circulatory system.

Sarnoff was no dabbler. A busy surgeon who helped found Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center, he spent some $8,000 to $10,000 a year on his filmmaking activities: “practically all my earnings, with the exceptions of what I had to spend to live on and to support my family.”1 And he was prolific: his System of General Surgery in Motion Pictures (1932), the series that succeeded The Human Body in Pictures, included more than 200 reels depicting 300 operations.

While it struck me as strange, The Blood Vessels and Their Functions makes a certain kind of sense. Sarnoff wanted to show the entire vascular system, and the system in its entirety is simply not viewable in situ. He had to lift it out of the body to show how blood vessels connect to each other.

A still from the film showing the day old infant’s veins mounted on a board.

In fact, while physicians have used film to capture the human body almost since the advent of the medium, this problem of the body’s illegibility has been a constant source of frustration. Human flesh was too dark, too messy, and too particular for cameramen to get good shots. “Stronger and whiter light down deeper and darker holes” was the refrain of the anatomical filmmaker.2

That problem inspired some impressive cinematic innovation. In 1908, a London hospital built a special chamber for recording surgical operations, “whither patients will be conveyed by electric elevators, and a light has been discovered by which photographs can be taken in all kinds of weather.” In 1921, a Berlin surgeon mounted the camera in a tube projecting from the ceiling of the operation room, controlling it through an electric foot pedal beneath the operating table.3 In 1932, Washington, DC cameramen stood on stepladders to record operations performed on tables that could be raised or lowered to obtain the proper distance from the camera.4 In 1935, French surgeons outfitted an operating room with a ceiling made of curved stainless steel, the cameras stationed behind the glass portholes.5 Other surgeon-cinematographers turned to mirrored operating theaters, windowed ceilings, cameras suspended from cables, and illuminated surgical instruments.6

They also turned to animation, as Sarnoff does in The Blood Vessels and Their Functions. As medical filmmaking grew in popularity and sophistication, animation took on increasing importance. For all the photograph’s detail, photography failed to capture fundamental systems and processes. The animated diagram, in contrast, combined movement with legibility. Indeed, for many physicians, the animated diagram was more accurate than the photographic image in depicting what the surgeon should train himself to see, since it superimposed a simplified, actionable diagram over the unworkable messiness of real human flesh.7

A still showing one of the animated diagrams from the film.

Sarnoff’s “Pneumo-Viscera,” his technique for inflating veins, helps to schematize the human body, much as animation does, by turning human flesh into something akin to an animated diagram. And it connects the pieces, too. As the air travels through the veins, the viewer can see how the pieces of the human body are linked together.

Motion pictures’ utility for surgeons might seem to be their ability to show things just as they appear to an observer present at the scene. But a film like Sarnoff’s suggests that there is a gulf between what mechanical reproduction shows and the way that something like circulation actually appears to the surgeon present.

For surgeons like Sarnoff, the value of film wasn’t only, or even chiefly, its ability to mechanically reproduce reality, but its ability to function as a dynamic collage: to offer students of surgery a lesson on how to move back and forth seamlessly between the messy substance of reality and the neat diagrams that populate anatomical atlases.

A still showing the messy scene at the site of a beating heart.

In fact, medical illustrators had been producing collages like this for centuries, in the form of the translucent vellum diagrams that overlay more realistic depictions of the body in anatomical atlases. But with film, Sarnoff and his fellow filmmakers could now add the element of motion to these anatomical collages.

The Blood Vessels and Their Functions has even more to teach us about the act of capturing human anatomy on film. Sarnoff aspired to produce not just any set of films, but a definitive atlas of the human body in motion. In Sarnoff’s imagination, medical educators would turn again and again to his film reels to demonstrate how the human body works.

Sarnoff wasn’t alone in this belief that anatomical films could be definitive reference work. The Historical Audiovisual Collection of the National Library of Medicine didn’t start out as the “historical” AV collection. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, when people began to collect films for what was then the Surgeon General’s Library, they intended to collect motion pictures that would be “available to teachers in the army and medical schools and the profession, just as the books in the Surgeon General’s Library are for study and reference” — that is, they assumed these films would constitute timeless medical knowledge.8

It makes sense: the body, presumably, is universal and timeless. Once images of it are secured, why should we ever need new ones? And yet The Human Body in Pictures quickly faded from use, as did every other medical movie. The films of the Surgeon General’s Library, now the National Library of Medicine, are valuable for what they can tell us about history more than they are for contemporary medical education.

A still from the film showing an animated depcition of the circulatory system.


So why do Sarnoff’s films now seem dated? Certainly our imaging capabilities have improved: the endoscopic camera takes us deeper into the body’s orifices than Sarnoff could have imagined.

But also, as Scott Curtis puts it, moving images of the body’s interior have turned out simply not to be as useful as filmmakers once assumed; they are “temporal and ephemeral, hard to read and difficult to grasp.”9 Film makes it easier to connect the parts of the body together, but that very fluidity and motion also makes the body more difficult to apprehend. Parts of the body slip in and out of view, and we find ourselves frustrated by our inability to see how one part is connected to the next. That’s why Sarnoff extracted the infant’s circulatory system: to gather the whole system in one frame.

To make sense of human anatomy, we seem to need to freeze it, disconnect the pieces, and manipulate each one individually. It’s too much to take in all at once. Contemporary digital anatomical atlases still make use of moving images, but they tend to be framed with text and still images. On its own, a moving image seems to tell us too much.

The films of Jacob Sarnoff are now relics of a bygone era. They can say volumes about the human body and how it works, and even more about the aspirations, ingenuity and technical problems of the people who made them. It’s just that those lessons aren’t necessarily those that its creator intended.

Miriam Posner is the Digital Humanities program coordinator and a member of the core DH faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her Ph.D., from Yale University, is in Film Studies and American Studies.

This essay is adapted from: Miriam Posner, Depth Perception: Narrative and the Body in American Medical Films (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), and first appeared on the NLM’s “Medical Movies on the Web”.



1. Jacob Sarnoff, Guardians of Health and Security. Libraries and Their Treasures, Part III: Surgical Motion Picture Library, unpublished manuscript (1955), n.p., Jacob Sarnoff Collection, Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections.

2.B. Stanford, “Cavity Illumination,” Medical & Biological Illustration I (1951): 82-83.

3. “Visual Activities as Noted in the Daily Press”, Visual Education 2.10 (December 1921): 37–39.

4. Daniel L. Borden, “Cinematography, Its Use in Surgery”, Journal of the Biological Photographic Association I.1 (September 1932): 21–23.

5. Anthony R. Michaelis, Research Films in Biology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Medicine (New York: Academic Press, 1955), 277.

6. For descriptions of surgical motion-picture cameras, see, for example, Jacob Sarnoff, “Color Cinematography in Surgery, Its Present and Future,” Journal of the Biological Photographic Association 4 (March 1936): 145–50; M.S. Hayden, “A Practical Technique of Photography for Use in the Surgical Operating Theatre,” Journal of the Biological Photographic Association 5.4 (December 1936): 159–67; “Visual Activities as Noted in the Daily Press”; R.B. Stout, “Surgery in Moving Pictures,” Journal of the American Medical Association 95 (6 December 1930): 1742–43; L. A. Julin, “Surgical Motion Pictures: Equipment and Technic,” Journal of the Biological Photographic Association 6 (September 1937): 25–32; L.A. Julin, “Surgical Motion Pictures,” Medical Physics (Chicago: Year Book Publishers, Inc., 1944).

7. For more on early medical animation, see Kirsten Ostherr, Medical Visions: Producing the Patient Through Film, Television, and Imaging Technologies (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), chap. one.

8. R.T. Taylor, “Remarks on Methods of Teaching Medicine and Surgery by the Cinematograph,” New York Medical Journal 109 (February 8, 1919): 232-33.

9. Scott Curtis, “Still/Moving: Digital Imaging and Medical Hermeneutics,” in Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Cultures, ed. Lauren Rabinowitz & Abraham Geil (Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 226.

For more films in the NLM’s collection, and a great series of related essays, see their “Medical Movies on the Web” project. 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

DPLA + OpenGLAM = <3

Kenny Whitebloom - August 13, 2015 in Featured, Working Group

Hi! My name is Kenny Whitebloom, and I’m the newest member of the OpenGLAM Working Group. I’m the Manager of Special Projects at the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), an online digital library that aggregates and makes freely available metadata and thumbnails for millions of digitized cultural objects from across the United States. My work at DPLA revolves around helping build our network of users and supporters through events, partnerships, strategic initiatives, and other projects that promote growth and innovation. My colleagues and I think through ways in which we can encourage DPLA’s many different audiences to make greater use of our collections and open data, whether that’s through special projects like hackathons or open competitions, partnerships with third-party organizations, or more traditional means like social media or event outreach.

Folklore Music Map of the United States” 1945. Courtesy of the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

Since launching in April 2013, DPLA has aggregated 11 million items from 1,600 institutions located in more than 20 states. We expect to see all three of those numbers grow over the next couple of years, as major new investments from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities will allow us to organize new “Service Hubs” – state nodes in our distributed network – in states where currently there isn’t a clear-cut way to contribute materials. As we get closer to completing the map of state-based Hubs, we are focusing more and more on audience engagement and use, among other key work areas.

President Kennedy plays with son John F. Kennedy, Jr. White House, West Wing Collonade” 1963. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

What are teachers and students looking for in something like DPLA? Do they need curated materials for the classroom, or do they prefer unstructured search and browse? How do genealogists think about digital cultural collections, and how we can make DPLA more central to their research? These questions and many more like them are complex and require dedicated research to answer. But if there’s one thing that consistently pops up when we ask users these types of questions – and we’ve done so quite a few times over the past couple of years – it is that the average person wants to be able to use the “stuff” they find online, within the limits of what’s permissible. They want to include an historic image in their school presentation, or hang a replica of an old map of their town in their living room, or make a puzzle out of their favorite vintage advertisement, or even just find a beautiful background for their computer desktop. While a few users are content to simply view an object online, many more want to use the full digital item to enrich their research, work, or leisure.

And the same holds for aggregators like DPLA: we want to be able to celebrate and tell stories to our large and growing network about the wonderful materials that have been brought together in this national platform, whether that’s through social media or virtual exhibitions, primary source sets for educators, or other forms of outreach. While we do our best to draw material from as many of our content partners as possible, we tend to turn to a familiar cast of those who have already opened up their materials for re/use in one form or another. We’re working to educate our community on copyright and the value of open collections so that a greater number feel comfortable sharing their riches more freely, in turn bringing greater attention and traffic to their digital holdings.

Josephine Baker(1)

Josephine Baker” ca. 1930-1950. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

I’m excited to be a part of the OpenGLAM working group because I believe – like OpenGLAM, DPLA, and other similar organizations – that opening up our digitized cultural collections within the limits of copyright encourages new forms of creativity, education, research, and understanding. Openness begets trust, and trust begets stronger cultural bonds. I look forward to working with this community to expand the realm of open materials, and I hope you’ll be in touch with your thoughts and ideas.

Interested in keeping up to date with DPLA? Sign up for their news mailing list.

Tempest Anderson: Pioneer of Volcano Photography

Pat Hadley, Sarah King and Stuart Ogilvy - August 6, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain

CURATOR’S CHOICE #24: Pat Hadley, Sarah King and Stuart Ogilvy from The Yorkshire Museum

Pat Hadley, Sarah King and Stuart Ogilvy from The Yorkshire Museum (York Museums Trust), present a fascinating selection of photographs from the collection of Tempest Anderson, the pioneering Victorian volcanologist.


What could possess a respectable Victorian surgeon from York to spend much of his life travelling to remote and challenging parts of the world to study volcanoes and climb mountains?

For Tempest Anderson, pioneering new techniques of ophthalmic surgery and inventing photographic equipment was not enough. He decided that his ‘limited leisure’ time could not be filled with reading, writing or socialising, he sought to occupy himself with something more exciting: volcanology. For him, it was a branch of science that did not have too much literature and had the ‘advantage of offering exercise in the open air’: he saw the sides of volcanoes not as dangerous but ‘picturesque’

Vesuvius in Eruption: taken from the sea – TA989 (1906) – Source.


Anderson would return to York and lecture at the Yorkshire Philosophical Society using a ‘magic lantern’ to display his glass slides and reveal far-flung landscapes to the scientific community. At his death, he donated half his estate and most of his archive to the YPS, and it is through this inheritance at the Yorkshire Museum that some of the 5,000 glass slides have come to be digitized for York Museums Trust’s online collection and Wikimedia Commons.

A female adventurer and the steam on Vulcano – (TA653) – Source.

Anderson’s travels took him around the world. In an era when journeys were still unpredictable and difficult, he went to very remote areas to make detailed photographic studies of eruptions and their aftermath. His first few voyages were to European volcanic areas: Eifel in Germany, the Auvergne in France and Vesuvius, Etna and the Lipari islands of Italy.

A basalt neck at Buron near Coudes, Southern France (TA0365 -1885) (Page 66 of VSIML) – Source.

YORYM_TA987 Anderson, Yeld and party return from Vesuvius – Source.

He first attempted a bigger adventure in 1890 to Iceland and this was the first in a series of more ambitious trips to the Canaries, and North America.

TA_3967 – Iceland. A man in a spiracle – Source.

TA_2068 – Tenerife Pico del Tiede – Source.

TA_2425 – A geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park – Source.

Over the course of these trips he established his skills as a photographer and his reputation as a keen observer and analyst of volcanic phenomena. As a result of the numerous papers and lectures he gave about these trips he – an amateur – was commissioned by the Royal Society to travel to St Vincent and Martinique in the Caribbean to study the aftermath of major eruptions in 1902.

Of all his expeditions, this had the greatest scientific legacy and left some of the most dramatic photographs. Though we lack access to Anderson’s diaries or papers, it has been possible to retrace many of the details of this expedition and pin down photos from the archive to specific days and passages in the report on the trip.

This map takes you through the whole journey. Some of the details – such as the trip through London and voyages between islands are a little unclear. Anderson was accompanied by John Flett, a young geologist who would go on to great things. What we do have are the amazing images Anderson took as they travelled through the islands. They studied the volcanoes and their effects in great detail. The main eruptions had taken place in early May with the worst completely destroying the town of Saint Pierre on Martinique and killing around 30,000 people.

A microscopic photograph of Volcanic dust from Mount Soufriere, St Vincent (TA0019 – 1902) – Source.

Studying the volcanic dust under a microscope allowed Anderson to identify how far the dust had blown across to other islands and the sequence of eruptions.

The most amazing event on the trip was on July 9 when they were on a small yacht – the Minerva of Grenada – off the coast of Martinique. They had been studying the shape of the volcano and the clouds of gas, ashes and steam that were being ejected at regular intervals. Anderson’s account of the evening is so dramatic and characteristic of his work that it bears repeating at length:

In the rapidly-falling twilight we sat on deck intently watching the activity of the volcano, and calculating the chances of an ascent next morning, when our attention was suddenly attracted to a cloud which was not exactly like any of the steam ” cauliflowers ” we had hitherto seen. It was globular, with a bulging, nodular surface ; at first glance not unlike an ordinary steam jet, but darker in colour, being dark slate approaching black. … For a little time we stood watching it, and slowly we realised that the cloud was not at rest but was rolling straight down the hill, gradually increasing in size as it came nearer and nearer. We consulted together; it seemed so strange and so unaccountable, but in a minute or two suspicion gave place to certainty. It seemed that the farther the cloud travelled the faster it came, and when we took our eyes off it for a second and then looked back it was nearer and still nearer than before. There was no room for doubt any longer. It was a ” black cloud,” a dust cloud, and was making directly for us. So with one accord we prepared to get out of its path. We helped the sailors to raise the anchor and, setting the head sails, we slipped away before the wind. By the time the mainsail was hoisted we had time to look back, but now there was a startling change. The cloud had cleared the slopes of the hill. It was immensely larger, but still rounded, globular, with boiling, pillowy surface, pitch black, and through it little streaks of lightning scintillated. It had now reached the north side of the bay, and along its base, where the black mass rested on the water, there was a line of sparkling lightnings that played incessantly Soon, however, it seemed to lose its velocity ; its surface became less agitated, it formed a great black pall, with larger, less vigorous, more globular, bulging convolutions. Evidently its violence was spent, and it was not to strike us ; it lay almost like a dead mass on the surface of the sea. [Anderson T, Flett, J, McDonald T. (1903) Report on the Eruptions of the Soufriere, in St. Vincent, in 1902, and on a Visit to Montagne Pelee, in Martinique. Part I. (p 493-494) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A]

Having escaped this first cloud, the scientists and sailors watched as Mount Pelee began to eject red-hot boulders up to a mile into the air and produce a huge ‘sullen growl’ that was heard in Barbados (nearly 150 miles away).

Then in an instant a red-hot avalanche rose from the cleft in the hillside, and poured over the mountain slopes right down to the sea. It was dull red, and in it were brighter streaks, which we thought were large stones, as they seemed to give off tails of yellow sparks. They bowled along, apparently rebounding when they struck the surface of the ground, but never rising high in the air. The main mass of the avalanche was a darker red, and its surface was billowy like a cascade in a mountain brook. Its velocity was tremendous. The mist and steam on the mountain top did not allow us to see very clearly how the fiery avalanche arose, but we had a perfect view of its course over the lower flanks of the hill, and its glowing undulating surface was clearly seen. Its similarity to an Alpine snow avalanche was complete in all respects, except the temperature of the respective masses. The red glow faded in a minute or two, and in its place we now saw, rushing forward over the sea, a great rounded, boiling cloud, black, and filled with lightnings. It came straight out of the avalanche, of which it was clearly only the lighter and cooler surface, and as it advanced it visibly swelled, getting larger and larger every minute. The moonlight shining on its face showed up the details of its surface. It was a fear-inspiring sight, coming straight over the water directly for us, where we lay with the sails flapping idly as the boat gently rolled on the waves of the sea… The display of lightning in the cloud was marvellous. In rapid flashes, so short that they often seemed mere points, and in larger, branching, crooked lines it continually flickered and scintillated through the whole vast mass. Nearer and nearer it came to where our little boat lay becalmed, right in the path of its murderous violence. We sat and gazed, mute with astonishment and wonder, overwhelmed by the magnificence of the spectacle, which we had heard so much about, and had never hoped to see. In our minds there was little room for terror, so absorbed were we in the terrible grandeur of the scene. But our sailors were in a frenzy of fear, they seized their oars and rowed for their lives, howling with dread every time they looked over their shoulders at the rushing cloud behind us. Their exertions did little good, as the boat was too heavy to row, and fear gave place to despair. But in a minute a slight puff of wind came from the south-east, very gentle, but enough to ripple the water and fill the sails, We had drifted out from the shore, so we gave our boatmen instructions to keep the boat close-hauled, and draw into the land, as the cloud was passing more to the westward. Then, when we looked at the cloud again ; it was changed, it showed no more the boiling, spouting, furious vigour, but the various rounded lobes in its point swelled slowly and to greater size, while fresh ones did not shoot forward, and the mass had a more reposeful and less violent appearance. In the moonlight it was difficult to say how far away it was, but judging by our distance from the shore, we thought it was a mile off, or rather more. It now lay before us nearly immobile, a gigantic wall, curiously reflecting the moonlight like a pall of black velvet. Its surface was strangely still after the turmoil it had exhibited before, and great black rounded folds hung vertically like those of an enormous curtain. [Anderson T, Flett, J, McDonald T. (1903) Report on the Eruptions of the Soufriere, in St. Vincent, in 1902, and on a Visit to Montagne Pelee, in Martinique. Part I. (p 494-497) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A]
The avalanche of hot sand was discharged about 8.20 p.m. In a couple of minutes it had reached the sea, and was over. The second black cloud, which was all that remained of it when the heavier dust had subsided, travelled about 5 miles in six minutes, and very rapidly slowed down, coming to rest and rising from the sea in less than a quarter of an hour. The tongue-shaped steam and dust cloud was over our boat by 8.40. A few minutes after that the ash was falling on our decks. The second black cloud did not differ in appearance from the first, except that it was larger, had a far greater velocity, and swept out at least twice as far across the sea. It was black from the first moment when we saw its boiling surface in the moonlight. Both travelled very rapidly over the lower part of the mountain, but slowed down after reaching the sea, and came to rest comparatively suddenly. The lightnings on the two clouds were similar in all respects. [Anderson T, Flett, J, McDonald T. (1903) Report on the Eruptions of the Soufriere, in St. Vincent, in 1902, and on a Visit to Montagne Pelee, in Martinique. Part I. (p 497) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A]

This incredible passage demonstrates Anderson and Flett’s ability to produce detailed descriptions of new phenomena despite terrifying circumstances . However, the cloud, the rocking deck and the twilight meant that Anderson’s heavy plate camera could not be used to capture the events. These observations, their studies and photographs led to the proper recognition for the first time of what are now known as ‘pyroclastic flows’ – heavier-than-air masses of volcanic gas and ash that tumble down the slopes at high speeds and enormous temperatures. It was one of these that had obliterated the town of Saint Pierre and destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii in AD 79.

In the following years Anderson made several return trips to the volcanoes of southern Italy and at least one to Egypt as well as attending the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s meeting in South Africa in 1905.

YORYM_TA2277 Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico – Source.


The next trip that really made a large impact was a return to the Caribbean in the winter of 1906-1907 to study the aftermath of the 1902 eruptions. Anderson combined this with visits to Mexico and Guatemala and the 1906 International Geological Congress in Mexico City. Anderson’s interest in the return of vegetation showed his holistic approach to the eruptions – he wasn’t just interested in the violent geomorphological phenomena but the way the volcanoes provided nutrients and changed the local ecosystems. His background in medicine also shows in his approach – he regarded close observation in the style of a ‘clinical or bedside study’

In the Trespe Ravine – Tempest Anderson and new vine growth. (TA0230 1907) – Source.

TA_2304 – A display at the Mexican Museum [of Anthropology?] – Source.

TA_2337 – The Crater of Santa Maria, Guatemala – Source.

The volcano of Santa Maria in Guatemala had also erupted very violently in 1902 killing around 5000 people. Anderson made studies comparing the aftermath to that of the Caribbean volcanoes.

Following this Anderson made an enormous voyage across the Pacific in 1909. Though the details of the itinerary are not clear, he visited New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, and then crossed the Rockies from Vancouver to the British Association meeting in Winnipeg, Canada.

TA 3358 Geysers New Zealand – Possibly Lady Knox Geyser, Rotorua, NZ – Source.

TA 3234 – Kilauea, Hawaii – Source.

TA 2372 ‘My tent’ Tempest Anderson’s tent at O’Hara Camp with Cathedral Peak behind – Source.

TA 2383 Dr Charles Doolittle Walcot (of Smithsonian) and Mrs Walcot at a camp in Lake Louise – Source.

The trip into the Rockies was with Charles Doolittle Walcot – the discoverer of the Burgess Shale – and a number of other geologists from around the world.

TA3623 Roadside view Papandayang, Java – Source.

TA3649 Borobudur, Java – Source.

TA3698 Mount Bromo, Java – Source.

Anderson’s final voyage was to Indonesia and the Philippines in 1913. On the return from this trip he contracted an illness on the ship and unfortunately died. He was buried at Suez, in Egypt. His loss was felt by many but a colleague had warned him several years before: “You know, Anderson, you are sure to be killed, but it will be such a very great satisfaction to you afterwards to think that it was in the cause of science.”

The legacy left by Anderson in York is understated today. The Tempest Anderson Hall was funded by Anderson in 1912, and is used by many on visits to the Yorkshire Museum, and the eagle-eyed may have spotted his plaque outside his former medical practice on Stonegate. However, few know much of the fantastic voyages made at the turn of the century by this adventurous doctor. Sharing his photographs online is a first step in telling his story.

Pat Hadley is Yorkshire’s Wikimedia Ambassador and works helping museums open up their collections online. Sarah King and Stuart Ogilvy are the curators of geology and natural history at the Yorkshire Museum.


For more information about Tempest Anderson you can explore:

See more images from the Tempest Anderson Collection here 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.