You are browsing the archive for Featured.

Getty announces partnership with DPLA

Lieke Ploeger - September 19, 2014 in Featured, News

This week, the Getty Research Institute announced a new partnership with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the database that provides access to digitized cultural heritage materials from American libraries, archives, and museums and makes these available as freely and openly as possible.

As a start of the collaboration, the Getty has added the metadata records (licensed as CC0) for nearly 100,000 art history materials (digital images, documentary photograph collections, archives, and books) dating from the 1400s to today, including some of their most popular items. Making this information available through the DPLA interface will both improve search and retrieval of material and open up more possibilities for reuse of this content. It for example ensures that the data is interoperable with datasets from other initiatives, so that websites like are able to create an interface through which you can search DPLA and Europeana simultaneously.

All Getty records are available through this DPLA page: more metadata will be uploaded in the future as more of the Getty’s collections are digitized.


Frontispiece in The mysteryes of nature and art: conteined in foure severall tretises… by John Bate. London, 1634. The Getty Research Institute, 2822-075

New York Cultural Heritage and Open Access Update

Dorothy Howard - September 12, 2014 in Featured, Guest Blog Post

New York is a center for world-class cultural heritage institutions, a site of innovation in the realm of digital humanities, library, archival, museum technology, and information sharing, not to mention hefty content production.  New York was also home to the first U.S. Wikimedia Chapter, Wikimedia NYC. That’s why it’s not surprising that there is also a wealth of recent Open Access initiatives in the New York Area: in this post you can find a select list.  


Content Donations

New York Public Library (NYPL Labs)In March, 2014 the New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division announced that they were to release over 20,000 high resolution images of cartographic works in their collections as well as crowd sourced transcriptions, that were known to have no U.S. copyright restrictions. The Division released these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (U.N. OCHA) – As part of its activities U.N. OCHA  creates fully up-to-date general reference maps of nations, specifically to facilitate emergency responding. Since Spring 2014, U.N. OCHA and Wikimedia NYC have collaborated to upload approximately 226 coordinates-based maps to Wikimedia Commons and begun adding these maps images to their respective Wikipedia articles.

Józef Piłsudski Institute of America – The Józef Piłsudski Institute of America, a cultural heritage institution grown out of the collection of the Polish Chief of State and WWI military leader, has donated over 1,400 images to Wikimedia Commons. The images include photographs and scans of military documents, letters, and other Polish and Ukrainian governmental documents.

Other – Many New York Institutions have contributed small batches of images to Wikimedia Commons under CC0 licenses, as part of Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons and GLAM projects. These institutions include the Frick Art Reference Library, the Center for Jewish History, and the Queens Borough Public Library.

Francis Samuel Marryat, San Francisco, lithograph.jpg

“Francis Samuel Marryat, San Francisco, lithograph” by Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Open Cultural Data

Linked Jazz – Initiated by the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and funded by the OCLC Research and the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) in 2011, this project aims to link cultural heritage materials in a web of connections using Linked Open Data (LOD) technology. The project includes multiple facets, including an exportable, LOD Linked Jazz API, a network visualization tool, and an interactive, exploratory search function.

Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum – In early 2012, the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum released its object record collection metadata API under a Creative Commons license and through GitHub.



Wikipedia Regional Edit-a-thons – Over 10 collaboratively organized Wikipedia Edit-a-thons in New York have taken place since September, 2013 with many more staff training events and social free culture meetups. These have included: A Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and Photo-hunt with a theme of “Brooklyn History” at Brooklyn Public Library, an Edit-a-thon a #GWWI (Global Women’s Wikipedia Write- In) on Women’s History at Columbia University’s Butler Library, and Edit-a-thons at Public Libraries in Harlem, Westchester, Queens, and Greenwich Village, among other places.

Staff from the Center for Jewish History and its partner Institutions, Leo Baeck Institute, YIVO, American Jewish Historical Society, and American Sephardi Federation, join volunteers to improve Wikipedia pages about women in Jewish History on May 4, 2012. Picture by Dcb766 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Center for Jewish History: Women in Jewish History Edithathon, May 4, 2012. Picture by Dcb766 (Own work), licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

WikiConference USA - The U.S.’s first Wikimedia Conference also took place on May 30 – June 1st at New York Law School, and was hosted by Wikimedia NYC and Wikimedia D.C. and funded by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation and gifts from Consumer Reports, the Institute for Information Law & Policy at New York Law School, and the City University of New York. This event, which drew approximately 250 participants, included a 2-day program of workshops and keynotes and a 1-day unconference.

Wikipedia Education Program – The Wikipedia Education Program in New York has been growing from one class in Fall 2010 to at least 10 courses with a Wikipedia component and Wikipedia Education Program ambassadors in Fall 2014. This semester’s program includes a course on the Economics of Developing Countries at Manhattanville College, a course on Women and Health at Barnard College, a sociology of fashion course at FIT, and a Development Psychology class at Hunter College that is simultaneously being run as a study on the pedagogical effectiveness of Wikipedia. There are also two English courses at LaGuardia Community College focused on Children’s and Young Adult Literature.



Several Wikipedians-in-Residence call New York their home.

  • Lane Raspberry has been a Wikipedian-in-Residence, at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, New York since April 2012.
  • David Goodman has serves as Wikipedian-in-Residence  at New York Public Library of the Performing Arts Music Division.
  • The Józef Piłsudski Institute of America has hosted three University students of Polish History as Wikipedians-in-Residence in the past year: Piotr Puchalski, Łukasz Chełmski, and Adam Granatowski.
  • Dorothy Howard (article author) continues to serve as Wikipedia at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, where she started in August, 2014.


Free Culture Groups

Many formal and informal free culture groups and meetups operate simultaneously in New York. Named here are few of many:

Techno Activism First Mondays is a workshop and discussion-based meetup group. It has hosted recent events including: “Muslims & Surveillance in NYC: The Next Steps,” in June and “LGBTQ Surveillance & Censorship: Understanding the Worldwide Challenges” in July.

The Internet Society of New York organizes projects and events around the themes of privacy and surveillance, internet access, net neutrality, elections, decentralized networks.


The Other Lives of Adam and Eve

Sarah Toulouse - September 4, 2014 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


Sarah Toulouse, Head of the Rare Books and Cultural Heritage Department at Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, explores the mystery behind a couple of strange and unexpected images found in a 15th-century book of hours.

Medieval books of hours are sometimes held in contempt by scholars. There are so many of them in our libraries and their images mostly so predictable, that one looking for some interesting illuminated images might easily pass them by. But to do so would be a big mistake, as inside each one of them there is always hiding something unexpected. In 2001, Rennes Library was lucky enough to purchase a wonderful book of hours, the Jean de Montauban hours, named by the Breton nobleman it was made for around 1430. It is heavily illuminated, containing more than 110 miniatures, together with full foliate borders on every page. But besides the richness of its decoration, what immediately struck me while turning the pages was the originality of some of the images. Identifying some of them was actually quite difficult, as the scenes depicted were uncommon. There were even a few which I didn’t recognize at all. I was particularly puzzled by this one, in one of the margins:

I-2012-0002246.img (1)

Who were those two naked people and what are they doing crawling on the grass like that? The text above happens to be the Lauds of the Virgin, which bears no relation to the image, as is often the case in books of hours. So no clue to the mystery lay in that direction.

The “who” question actually ended up being quite easy to solve, as this particular image belongs to a series of 10 marginal miniatures from folio 22 recto to folio 29 verso, clearly depicting scenes from Genesis, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and finishing with Noah’s Ark:


Considering the place this strange image occupies in the series, the two naked people were evidently Adam and Eve, but nowhere in the biblical text can you find a story that could be illustrated in such a way.

The following scene of the series was even more puzzling:


Here again, it is easy enough to identify the three protagonists as Adam, Eve and the Devil, but what are they doing in the water? Another oddity is that the typical scene of the Temptation, with the snake and the apple tree, is missing from the series, but the two scenes following this one depict Adam and Eve beclothed and working, i.e. outside Paradise. So could the image be a kind of peculiar representation of the Temptation?

I began looking for other similar images, or texts that could have inspired the illuminator, as it was highly unlikely that he would have completely invented the images. The answer finally came from an apocryphal text called Vita Adae et Evae (The Life of Adam and Eve). It relates how after the Angel expelled them from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve cried and moaned for 7 days. Beginning to feel hungry they ventured out in search of food, but they couldn’t decide whether to eat or not what they found. They were craving for the angelic fare they were used to in Paradise. To have God take them back to Eden, Adam suggested they should do a penance: he was to stay 40 days in the River Jordan, while Eve, more fragile, was to stay only 33 days in the River Tigris. And so they went, but after only 28 days, Satan, dressed up in disguise as an Angel, tempted Eve a second time, telling her that God had already granted her forgiveness. Again she yielded and left the water before the end of the penance, ruining all the efforts made thus far and the chance to ever make the return to Paradise.


These two puzzling scenes found in the Montauban hours are clearly inspired by the Vita Adae text, showing in the first scene Adam and Eve looking for their food, and in the second the penance in the rivers and the Devil coming to do his tempting work once again. This text is in fact not uncommon and can be found in quite a large number of manuscripts, but its iconographic tradition is fairly sparse. Only three manuscripts containing this particular text are known to have images (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex Vindob. 2980 / Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms Fr. 1837 / Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arsenal Ms 5092). Beyond that, one can find a few chronicles showing one scene or the other (for example Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. germ. fol. 1416), but never a whole cycle. Furthermore, dating from the middle and end of the 15th century, all these other manuscripts come after the Montauban hours, made around 1430. So it might be that the Montauban hours include the very first images depicting these episodes of the Life of Adam and Eve. Just another piece of proof that every book of hours conceals a treasure for medieval images lovers!

Sarah Toulouse has been Head of the Rare Books and Cultural Heritage Department at Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole since 1995.

Further reading:

  • Click here, to leaf through the whole manuscript.
  • Click here, to see all the images in this manuscript.
  • Click here, to explore the digital library at Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole.

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.

OpenGLAM in Brazil – A couple of highlights

Mariana Valente - September 1, 2014 in Featured

While there is a growing professionalization in the field of GLAM in Brazil, one would hardly argue we are faced with a thriving OpenGLAM movement.  Digitization itself is not a widespread phenomenon, even if there is a growing sense of its importance. There are, however, a few initiatives involving both providing open content online and providing support for initiatives that are worthy of attention.

In 2006, José and Guita Mindlin officially donated their library of 32,2 thousand titles, or 60 thousand volumes, to the University of São Paulo. Mindlin’s collection is an expressive ensemble of books and manuscripts about Brazil – Brazilian studies, literature, history, science, travel journals, maps, iconography, arts, and books as an object of art  – a “brasiliana” collection, and the most important of the kind. While José devoted his life to collecting books, his wife Guita specialized in conservation and restoration and maintained a private conservation lab.

The University of São Paulo compromised with preserving the collection and making it accessible to the wider public. Between 2008 and 2010, Fapesp, the State of São Paulo foundation for research, provided Brasiliana funds for the development of a platform (Corisco), and the BNDES (National Bank for Development) funded the project’s continuation. Corisco parts from DSpace and its modules, and aggregates other free software components such as IIPImage and BookReader. Ever since it started to be developed, it was adapted and adopted by other cultural institutions.

Brasiliana contains currently 3.800 digitized documents: books, manuscripts, maps, journals and images in the public domain, available for download. Digitization itself hasn’t been an issue; “the hardest work has been metadata, cataloguing and preparation”, said professor Pedro Puntoni, who directed the Brasiliana until 2013. Also, about half of the collection is not in the public domain and currently unlicensed.

Civilized savages, indigenous soldiers from Mugi das Cruzas (St. Paul province) fight the Botocoudos. Debret, Jean Baptiste, 1768-1848. Public Domain.

Civilized savages, indigenous soldiers from Mugi das Cruzas (St. Paul province) fight the Botocoudos. Debret, Jean Baptiste, 1768-1848. Public Domain.

Besides making the works available, Brasiliana takes efforts to organize user-friendlier content: it also presents a curated selection of “critical texts”, such as a collection of pamphlets about the abolition of slavery in Brazil, written between 1883 and 1889 – 1888 was the year when slavery was officially abolished by Princess Isabel. As reported, these documents cast a new light on official discourses about the period.

“The Eclypse of the Abolishment”, by Joaquim Nabuco, 1886. Public Domain.

“The Eclypse of the Abolishment”, by Joaquim Nabuco, 1886. Public Domain.

Rede Memorial

Another noteworthy initiative is the Rede Memorial (Memorial Network), created in 2009 by a network of 31 institutions, which signed a Letter of Principles (redrafted in 2012), directed at sustaining policies for digitization of memorial collections. Their principles are:

  1. Open, public and free access: adoption of open protocols, that allow for interoperation and common search for documents and metadata;
  2. Sharing of information and technology among the institutions;
  3. Accessibility, using W3C standards (Web Accessibility Initiative). A first effort shall be directed at improving OCR strategies and direct revision of text;
  4. Identification, organization and treatment as pre-requisite for digitization, for overcoming different methods, techniques and practices shared by different sorts of collections;
  5. Developing capture and image treatment standards, and improving on the existing ones;
  6. Metadata and Information Architecture: developing and sharing knowledge about usage of systems that read metadata, or databases that allow dissemination and migration of these information;
  7. Developing long-term oriented standards and norms for digital preservation
  8. Working on education, research and training projects;
  9. Thinking of marketing and education, and developing methods to evaluate the efficacy of the diffusion of collections;
  10. Copyrights: working on policy and the creation of systems to manage the intellectual property status and the authenticity of the digital objects;

in the first semester of 2014, Rede Memorial, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Petrobrás, promoted an open competition for digitization projects, prioritizing institutions that had little or no experience in the field, with relevant projects involving only copyright-free materials.

The 10 winning projects were awarded with equipment and training for the establishment of digitization labs for 2D materials – and all projects consist of public domain artworks. The implementation of the award is to take place within the next months, according to Millard Schisler, the head behind Rede Memorial.

The Internet Archive joins Flickr Commons

Lieke Ploeger - August 30, 2014 in Featured, News, Public Domain

This week, the Internet Archive announced that they have joined Flickr Commons and will be uploading over 14 million copyright-free images over the next months. These images have been extracted from the Internet Archive’s collection of public domain eBooks (spanning a time period between 1500 – 1922) by research fellow Kalev Leetaru. At the moment, over 2.5 million images are already available. What makes this resource specifically valuable is that for each image a detailed description, the subject tags of the originating book and 500 words of surrounding text have been added – which makes it possible to search through them based on topics and keywords.


The image collection can be found and used through this Flickr page: more background information on the release is also available from the Flickr announcement, as well as from this background article by the BBC.

OpenGLAM at Wikimania 2014

Subhashish Panigrahi - August 27, 2014 in Events/Workshops, Featured, GLAM-Wiki


GLAM activities in the last two months have been quite happening! After Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin, OpenGLAM members and other GLAM contributors met again during Wikimania London, the official annual event of the Wikimedia movement focused on what people are making with wikis and open content. There were GLAM talks, workshops, discussions and brown bag talks: in this blog I’ll go into some of the highlights, but you can find an overview of all GLAM & Free culture submissions here.

Promoting OpenGLAM – Exchange of Experiences and Best Practices

OpenGLAM Working Group members Beat Estermann and Joris Pekel conducted a workshop during which they introduced the OpenGLAM working group and the various activities that members from different countries are involved in, such as the Open Cultuur Data masterclasses in the Netherlands and the Coding Da Vinci cultural data hackathon in Germany. For Switzerland, Beat Estermann talked about the OpenGLAM Benchmark Survey that aims to gather more information of open data principles in the heritage sector around the world.


    Best practices for the evaluation of GLAM-Wiki cooperation

    A GLAM-Wiki evaluation workshop was organized by Beat Estermann, Maarten Brinkerink and Wikimedia Foundation’s Program Evaluation specialist Jaime Anstee to assess the impact of the past GLAM projects and to create a road map by placing evaluation parameters in place for institutional collaboration. From the GLAM wiki residency project at Wikimedia UK, Jonathan Cardy presented the evaluation process needed in place for Wikipedia-in-Residence programs. Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE)’s Lilli Iliev shared information about the evaluation practices WMDE has put in place in order to implement small to large scale GLAM projects in Germany. While working with various cultural institutions in Germany, they focused on qualitative aspects of the content acquired, on goal oriented programs like “GLAM on Tour”, and on mass outreach by popular media and post campaign impact measuring. Four groups were then formed to work on particular GLAM projects, how they plan to evaluate tangible output and measure return on investments.

    In the scope of the Wikipedia Voice Intro Project that he founded, Andy Marbett ( spoke about the beauty of having recordings of notable people where they not just pronounce their names in their native languages, but introduce themselves with their dates and places of birth. With BBC’s collaboration, this project has grew to an avenue on Wikipedia to enrich biography-articles. This is indeed a project that has run absolutely in zero cost and aims at making Wikimedians meet their stars and document their voices for ever on the Internet. The full video of the talk is available below.

    Cabinet Card Photographs from the Harvard Theatre Collection

    John Overholt - August 5, 2014 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


    John Overholt, Curator at Houghton Library, shines a spotlight on a few examples from the eclectic lot of cabinet card photographs found in the Harvard Theatre Collection, a series of images which are currently making their way onto Wikimedia Commons courtesy of the Wikipedian in Residence scheme.


    This year, Houghton Library hired its first Wikipedian in Residence. Although the project was new for us, the idea certainly isn’t: since the first such position was created in 2010, dozens of libraries, museums, and other institutions have had a Wikipedian. Generally, a Wikipedian in Residence will enhance articles relevant to the institution’s collections, contribute materials from those collections, and foster ongoing cooperation between the institution and the Wikipedia community. You can follow the work of our Wikipedian in Residence, Rob Velella, through the edit history of the account he created for this project, Rob at Houghton.

    One of my priorities for the project was to have the Wikipedian work on identifying and uploading public domain material from our digitized collections that could be useful in enriching Wikipedia articles. We decided to start with the rich collection of more than 100,000 cabinet card photographs in the Harvard Theatre Collection, currently in the midst of a long-term digitization project. So far we’re only through the first few letters of the alphabet in the collection of actors’ photos, but even that small slice gives a strong sense of the value and scope of the collection. Unsurprisingly, the collection is primarily made of actors in the strict sense, and the photos of them range from the tastefully classical:

    English actor Aubrey Boucicault (1869-1913), headshot in character. Source includes the note: “In Quo Vadis”. TCS 1.3244, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: 1913 or earlier. Photographer: Elmer Chickering from Boston – Source.

    to the wild and wooly:

    American opera vocalist David Bispham (1857-1920), in character as Alberich in the opera Siegfried. TCS 1.2543, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: 1902. Photographer: Aimé Dupont – Source.

    In addition, quite a few other kinds of performers are represented, from authors like Mark Twain:

    American author Samuel L. Clemens, known by the name Mark Twain (1835-1910), sitting and wearing a white suit. TCS 1.5265, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: 1910 or earlier. Photgrapher: unidentified – Source.

    to impresario of the Wild West, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody:

    American showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917). TCS 1.5331, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: 1917 or earlier. Photographer: Newsboy, New York – Source.

    From health and fitness advocate Bernarr Macfadden (note that this photo is presented in its entirety, and I have no further information about what may have been happening below the frame):

    American proponent of health and fitness Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1915). TCS 1.2397, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: Before 1918. Photographer: unknown – Source.

    to, well, whatever the heck this is:

    Two performers playing stringed instruments. Labeled “European comic eccentric ‘Bonitas’ family. TCS 1.2790, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: 1918 or earlier. Photographer: Hall, New York – Source.

    In fact, not all the subjects are human, such as the chess playing automaton Ajeeb the Wonderful. It should be noted however, that like his more famous cousin the Mechanical Turk, Ajeeb is merely a cover for the quite human chess player inside who secretly controlled his movements.

    Chess automaton “Ajeeb the Wonderful”. TCS 1.183, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. Date: 1886. Photographer: Falk, New York – Source.

    If you’d like to explore the rest of this fascinating collection, simply search for “TCS 1” in VIA, Harvard’s image access database, or visit us at Houghton Library, which is open to any adult researcher who wants to make use of our collections.

    John Overholt is Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Samuel Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library, Harvard University

    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.

    Getting ready for the OpenGLAM benchmark survey

    Lieke Ploeger - July 29, 2014 in Events/Workshops, Featured

    Since early 2014, a group of people from national chapters of the Open Knowledge Foundation, Wikimedia chapters, NGOs, cultural heritage and research institutions has been working on preparing the OpenGLAM benchmark survey. This online survey will 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. The initiative is inspired by the pilot survey carried out among Swiss heritage institutions by the Bern University of Applied Sciences in fall 2012.

    At the Open Knowledge festival a dedicated session to the OpenGLAM benchmark survey was hosted to share information about the ongoing work and to give new countries the ability to join the survey. After a brief introduction to the goals of the survey and the work that has been done so far by Beat Estermann (Bern University of Applied Sciences), representatives from three participating countries presented their national context with regard to open cultural data and their way of implementing the survey: Joris Pekel (the Netherlands), Laura Sillanpää (Finland) and Subhashish Panigrahi (India).

    The situation around open cultural data and OpenGLAM in various countries is of course quite different: the OpenGLAM benchmark survey can function as a useful tool for better understanding the particularities of each country, put insights gained into a broader perspective and better adapt strategies and best practices to the specific situation of each country. New countries are very welcome to join the survey: if your country is not yet in the list of participating countries, you can either leave a message on the discussion page or contact Beat Estermann to get involved. If you would like to join one of the existing teams, you can contact the local coordinator. countries During the upcoming Wikimania conference (6-10 August, London) you’ll also have a chance to hear more about the OpenGLAM benchmark survey. The session Promoting OpenGLAM:  Exchange of Experiences and Best Practices will focus on sharing experiences related to the promotion of OpenGLAM and GLAM-Wiki cooperations, and the role the OpenGLAM Benchmark Survey can play in this respect.
    Beat Estermann presenting at the "Introduction to the OpenGLAM benchmark Survey project" at the Open Knowledge Festival, Berlin on 17 July 2014.

    Beat Estermann presenting at the “Introduction to the OpenGLAM benchmark Survey project” at the Open Knowledge Festival, Berlin on 17 July 2014.

    The full notes of the OKFestival session are available through this Etherpad: more information on the OpenGLAM benchmark survey can be found on the coordination portal.

    Starting the OpenGLAM local group for Germany – event report

    Lieke Ploeger - July 25, 2014 in Events/Workshops, Featured

    On the morning before the start of the Open Knowledge Festival, a group of nearly 60 open culture enthusiasts from all over the world gathered at the Wikimedia offices in Berlin to discuss the situation around open cultural data in Germany and to start up a local German OpenGLAM group. The day began with a brief overview of the OpenGLAM initiative:

    Next up were several brief lightning talks demonstrating the value that opening up cultural heritage can bring. Joris Pekel presented the case study of the Dutch Rijksmuseum, one of the largest institutions that has released its collection openly. He showed how the museum progressed from offering a first set of images as CC-BY to releasing the full collection as public domain, as well as encouraging users to remix content through the Rijksstudio program.
    Stephan Bartholmei of the German Digital Library (DDB, Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek) shared his experiences after one year of working in the field of digital cultural heritage. He encouraged cultural heritage institutions to be bolder and share their data openly with the right tools and infrastructure, so that users are empowered to make the best use of this data.
    The next lightning talk focused on the Wikidata initiative, which is a free knowledge base created by Wikimedia that collects data in a structured form. Lydia Pintscher (Wikimedia Deutschland) gave an impressive demonstration of how data can easily be reused by Wikimedia projects and third parties, for example to provide multilinguality.

    Helene Hahn (Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland) then went on to present the results of the first German cultural hackathon, Coding da Vinci. She described the winning projects that were selected from a total of 17 developed projects – definitely an impressive first edition of this hackathon series!

    The final lightning talk was given by Daniel Mietchen of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. He gave an overview of the ongoing collaborations in the GLAM-Wiki sphere focused on scientific data: the basis of his talk is available through his Wikipedia page.

    Starting the local OpenGLAM group for Germanyog_fringe_okfest14

    With such a large group of participants, structuring the debate on the current situation around openness in Germany was not an easy task. Everyone was asked to share what they see as the most positive contribution that Germany has made towards opening up cultural data, as well as the three most pressing issues which stand in the way of further opening up. All input was placed on two bulletin boards, and the issues were grouped together in five clusters that a local OpenGLAM group for Germany could focus on in the start-up period:

    • Data quality
    • Copyright / licenses
    • Access to and use of data
    • Supporting cultural heritage institutions
    • Network: sharing use cases & best practices

    Finally, for further inspiration there were talks from two other local OpenGLAM groups: (Switzerland, presented by Beat Estermann) and AvoinGLAM (Finland, presented by Sanna Marttila), both of which have managed to set up a good network and working structure within their countries, as well as some impressive achievements such as hackathons and masterclasses around open cultural data.

    Following these talks, the groups started a first brainstorm on what kind of activities the German OpenGLAM group could start for each of the five topics. Since time was running out, this will be continued online in the future – a German OpenGLAM network mailing list has now been set up to discuss what the next steps of the working group might be. Besides discussions, subscribers will get information about dates and outcomes of working group meetups, interesting links and event hints around open cultural data in Germany. More information (in German) will also be shared through

    Sanna Marttila presenting AvoinGLAM (Finnish OpenGLAM group)

    Sanna Marttila presenting AvoinGLAM (Finnish OpenGLAM group)

    Many thanks to Wikimedia Deutschland for the great hosting of this event, and for all those interested in joining the German OpenGLAM group, please sign up for the OpenGLAM-de mailinglist to stay informed!


    Maintaining a healthy and thriving Public Domain

    Joris Pekel - July 22, 2014 in Events/Workshops, Featured, Public Domain

    At this week´s Open Knowledge Festival, Europeana together with the OpenGLAM initiative and Dutch think tank Kennisland ran a workshop to discuss how to maintain a healthy and thriving public domain of cultural heritage. The festival ran from 16-17 July in Berlin, and was attended by more than 1000 people from all over the world who gathered to talk about open data, transparency, development and many other topics. This blog has been written as part of Europeana’s #PublicDomainMonth – a month dedicated to sharing knowledge, best practices and events all related to the Public Domain and was crossposted from the Europeana Pro blog.

    Image: Schilderkunst achtervolgd door onnozelen, anonymus, 1700 - 1800. Rijksmuseum. public domain.

    Image: Schilderkunst achtervolgd door onnozelen, anonymus, 1700 – 1800. Rijksmuseum. public domain.

    The principles of a healthy and thriving Public Domain are established in the Europeana Public Domain Charter, as essential to the social and economic wellbeing of society (you can read an Introduction to this here). During this workshop we explored how cultural institutions can work towards maintaining the public domain as a valuable source of knowledge.

    The session started with Kennisland’s Paul Keller presenting the difficulties for institutions to define if an object is in the public domain or not. Thanks to complex international, European and national copyright laws, calculating when an object is in the public domain ranges from simple to the complex. Cultural heritage institutions, who are required to make decisions based on copyright, do not typically employ copyright law experts. This lack of clarity combined with lack of very specific expertise can often result in an organisational policy, which restricts the use of digital objects by incorrectly claiming copyright allows them to do so.

    If we stick with the strict interpretation of law, we run the risk of losing access to valuable cultural heritage material. So when should exceptions be OK? Paul went on to present a number of case studies where it is debatable whether this type of  organisational policy is acceptable or not, such as the recent release from the Wellcome Library, where over 100.000 images were made available in high quality using the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. While on the one hand it is applauded that these images are made available for anyone to use in an open way, it does not acknowledge that the material is out of copyright, and therefore cannot be made available under a copyright licence. For more details see the presentation slides below.

    As we delve deeper into the issues, we turned to look at the application of copyright law itself.Thomas Margoni from the Institute for Information Law in Amsterdam presented his ongoing research, which queries when a digital reproduction of an existing (protected or unprotected by copyright) object gives rise to a new object that can claim copyright and/or related rights. This research reviews EU laws to address the  different ways in which legal exceptions are applied. The preliminary results are available in the slides below.


    The many exceptions in the different European Member States make it difficult to come to a common approach. This is a challenge for both the cultural sector, as well as the organisations that work towards more openly available cultural content on the web. Would applying  CC-BY licence be acceptable in order to make beautiful material, that was previously unavailable to the public, available online? Or should organisations like Europeana take a firm stand against this? One idea proposed in the workshop was an ‘Open GLAM Scorecard’ for open datasets which can be used to rank the set. This way it can be acknowledged that an institution is doing good work, but it can also be used to point out things that could be done better in order to receive a full green status of ‘open’.

    This workshop was the kickoff of the broader discussion. In the coming period these ideas will be further explored with the wider GLAM community to see of this would work, and if so, how the ranking should be done. If you are interested in this discussion please join the mailing list. All the notes taken during the session can be found here.