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Harvard Library lifts copyright restrictions on public domain works

Lieke Ploeger - October 23, 2014 in Featured, News

oaweek2014-600x60As part of the international Open Access Week (20-26 October), Harvard Library shared great news on their new policy on the use of digital reproductions of public domain works. From now on, the library will make such reproductions openly available online and treat them as objects in the public domain. This means that users will be able to reuse this content in any way they want, without any restrictions: Harvard Library does not charge for permission to use those reproductions, and it does not grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute such images.

Harvard Library expects that this new policy will stimulate the use and reuse of digitized content for research, teaching, learning, and creative activities, which supports their mission of advancing scholarship and teaching by committing to the creation, application, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. Sarah E. Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and the Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College, states:

“We have already been using the digitization of Harvard’s collections as a means of enhancing access for Harvard’s students and faculty. Now we are seeking to share Harvard’s unparalleled collections with the rest of the world in ways that will foster new creativity.”

This is great news for OpenGLAM and we hope this can be an inspiring example for other institutions. The full policy can be read here: Harvard Library will announce other news related through Open Access Week on this page.

Open Rubens – the new and improved Rubens Online

Joris Janssens - October 14, 2014 in Case Studies, Featured, Guest Blog Post

This is a guest blog post about the Open Rubens platform written by Joris Janssens of Packed, one of the partners of the Europeana Space (eSpace) project. Open Rubens won the public prize during the competition 2013. PACKED is a centre of expertise in digital heritage and promotes the use of standards for the creation, preservation and online dissemination of cultural heritage content.

In 2004 the Rubenianum, a centre dedicated to the study of Rubens, developed the Rubens Online website, which holds information on all works by the Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens whiopenrubens1ch have been or are present in Belgian public collections. The website is a product of its time and we could nowadays easily present the collection in some refreshing manner without much effort. Since the Rubens Online dataset was available under an open license ( we used it create some new ways to explore this collection. You can find the result at

You can browse the collection through:

1) Some random images which are loaded from the dataset. If you click on an image you get a detail view of the work.

openrubens22) Since there was geographical information in the data we could show all the works on a map and if a work has been in different locations we can track these movements.

openrubens33) A timeline shows the works in the collection in a chronological order

Timeline using timeline js

Timeline using timeline js

On the detail page we added some social sharing functionality, the possibility to add tags to the images and to add comments.

Most of the images are available in a low resolution: we therefore implemented the functionality to do a Google Image search for similar images, in the hope of finding some higher resolutions. Since the works are public domain, even a larger resolution should not fall under copyright. This however could be different from country to country.


Google Image search with different sizes

In addition to the Rubens Online dataset the detail page of a work shows some results from a search by title using the Europeana API. This however does not always provide nice results: sometimes because their just isn’t any relevant content to show, but also because searching and filtering is a bit limited – which will hopefully improve in a future version of the Europeana API.

Results from Europeana search

Results from Europeana search

Open Rubens was submitted for of the competition 2013, where it won the public price.

Open Knowledge Foundation joins Europeana Space

Marieke Guy - October 14, 2014 in Featured, News, Projects

This blog (cross-posted from the eSpace blog) introduces the work that Open Knowledge will perform within the Europeana Space project. Open Knowledge will be cooperating on WP3 – The Content Space and provide support and tools about the possibility of re-use of public domain and open content.


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. It will provide an open environment for the development of applications and services based on digital cultural content. The use of this environment will be fostered by a vigorous, wide-ranging and sustainable programme of promotion, dissemination and replication of the Best Practices developed within the project.

Open Knowledge will be providing a ‘Knowledge Base’ on ‘Open Content Exchange’ known as the ‘OpenContent Exchange Platform’ for the Content Space. This platform will comprise of collated public domain and open content materials related to the value of digital public domain and best practices around open licensing. One particular area of focus will be the monetising of Europeana open content by creative industries and the challenges this poses related to IPR.

The OpenContent Exchange Platform will help answer, in an accessible, user-friendly way, the question “What would those working in creative industries want to know or to happen to enable them to reuse Europeana content?”. Questions from those working in creative industries may include:

  • What is the license of the content? What does the license mean? What can I do with the content? Can I make money from this content?
  • Do licence rules for what I can do differ by country? Do licence rules vary for the type of content I want to use? Are there differences between the licence for physical work or a digital work?
  • How do label my own content correctly? What is rights labelling?
  • Is IPR content embedded within content? What technical standards are there around embedding IPR content?
  • How can I get legal advice on IPR issues? How can I get content cleared to reuse?

It is anticipated that results from the platform will inform further research and policy making in the cultural heritage sphere, specifically around business models for open cultural content. Any poorly covered areas in the currently available materials will be identified with the intention of ‘filling in the gaps’.

Handing over a book from the Institut für Realienkunde. This image is Public Domain marked and available on Europeana portal.

Handing over a book from the Institut für Realienkunde. This image is Public Domain marked and available through the Europeana portal.

The OpenContent Exchange Platform will be an online, publicly accessible platform consisting of:

  • Links to open content to be made available through the exchange platform both from     partners of the Europeana Space project and from the wider cultural heritage community;
  • Blog posts and articles on open content being provided by Europeana Space partners     and the wider cultural heritage sphere presenting this material thematically and in a highly curated way to maximise interest in it;
  • Documentation on open licensing for both suppliers and users of open content so that     both parties fully understand the technical and legal implications of their work and make best use of its open character;
  • Materials on the re-use of openly licensed materials targeted at the creative industry, including manuals on how to source public domain works from other repositories

A first version of the OpenContent Exchange Platform will be ready in early 2015: the full version is planned for February 2016.

The Open Knowledge team that will work on the eSpace project includes:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALieke Ploeger, community manager of the OpenGLAM initiative and project co-ordinator of the DM2E project at Open Knowledge. OpenGLAM is focused on promoting free and open access to digital cultural heritage held by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums, while DM2E is building the tools and communities to enable humanities researchers to work with manuscripts in the Linked Open Web. Before joining Open Knowledge, she worked at the National Library of the Netherlands, where she was involved in several large-scale European research projects, such as IMPACT in the area of digitisation and SCAPE in the field of digital preservation.


marieke-guy-roundedMarieke Guy, project co-ordinator at Open Knowledge. She is just completing work on the LinkedUp Project through which she supported a series of competitions aiming to get people to reuse open and linked data relevant to education. Many of the LinkedUp Catalogue datasets have come from the GLAM community and many of the tools developed have been museum related. Prior to working for Open Knowledge she spent 13 years at the University of Bath based at UKOLN, where she worked on a variety of Cultural Heritage projects including Cultivate, Exploit and IMPACT – a mass digitisation project which aimed to improve access to historical text. Marieke is co-ordinator of the Open Education Working Group and writes a blog about Remote Working.

EC reports on digitisation in Europe

Lieke Ploeger - October 14, 2014 in Featured, News

In early October the European Commission published two reports on the current state of digitisation of cultural heritage material in Europe: one report addresses progress in the area of digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation, while the other looks more specifically at the situation around European film heritage in the digital era. Both reports conclude that although more cultural content has been made available online in recent years, there is still a lot of work to be done.

The Report on Digitisation, Online Accessibility and Digital Preservation of Cultural Material reviews and assesses the overall progress Volta_della_stanza_della_segnatura_02,_filosofiaachieved in implementing the EC Recommendation of 27 October 2011 (2011/711/EU), which asked EU Member States to step up their digitisation efforts and increase online accessibility of European cultural heritage. The digitised material should be made more widely available through Europeana, Europe’s digital library, archive and museum.

Most noteworthy for OpenGLAM is the EC stating in the executive summary that for the promotion of new ways of expanding access to and re-use of cultural heritage through the use of digital platforms, it is essential to ensure wide availability of the digitised materials in open platforms, with appropriate quality, resolution and interoperability features.

Although web visibility of cultural content has increased through reduction of watermarking or visual protection measures and wider use of open formats or social media, digitisation still remains a challenge, with only a fraction of Europe’s collections digitised so far (around 12% on average for libraries and less than 3% for films).

An important area of concern is digitised public domain material: often access to this material is obstructed by intrusive watermarking, low resolution or visual protection measures, and its re-use limited by the prohibition of reproduction or use of such materials for other than non-commercial purposes. The Rijksmuseum is highlighted as one of the institutions showing the way forward, by having widely opened up their digitised public domain material in high resolution format for free reuse. Other examples mentioned are:

Europeana managed to reach its overall collection target of 30 million objects set out in the Recommendation ahead of the 2015 deadline, with a current total of over 33 million. However, still underrepresented are copyrighted material and audiovisual material. This is partly because of the complexity and costs involved in clearing rights for the digitisation and partly because of the lacking online accessibility of those materials. Also premium content from mainstream cultural institutions (including masterpieces of leading European museums) is not always present.

The second report, Film Heritage in the EU also mentions the high cost and complexity of copyright clearance as one of the main barriers to film digitisation and online access, together with lack of funding. Although online access to film heritage collections for non-commercial purposes has increased in the last years, it is still very small.

There is some work to be done in the next few years to improve the situation: the OpenGLAM network aims to contribute to a wider adoption of open licensing policies by cultural institutions in the future by showcasing the value of institutions opening up their collections and helping those interested in opening up their material through workshops, documentation and guidance on open cultural data.

More information

The full press release of the European Commission is available here. The publication of both reports coincided with the Athena Plus conference on the reuse of digital cultural content in education, tourism and leisure: more information on this event is available from this webpage.


Thomasin Sleigh - October 13, 2014 in Contest, Featured, Public Domain

GIF IT UP Banner -- 3

Over the last months of 2014, the Digital Public Library of America and DigitalNZ are holding GIF IT UP, an international competition to find the best GIFs reusing public domain and openly licensed digital video, images, text, and other material available via the organisations’ search portals.

Credit: Cat Galloping (1887). The still images used in this GIF come from Eadweard Muybridge’s “Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements” (1872-1885). Courtesy USC Digital Library, 2010. Item is in the public domain: GIF available under a CC-BY license.

Credit: Cat Galloping (1887). The still images used in this GIF come from Eadweard Muybridge’s “Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements” (1872-1885). Courtesy USC Digital Library, 2010. Item is in the public domain: GIF available under a CC-BY license.

The GIF IT UP competition (13 October–1 December 2014) has six categories:

  1. Animals
  2. Planes, trains, and other transport
  3. Nature and the environment
  4. Your hometown, state, or province
  5. WWI, 1914–1918
  6. GIF using a stereoscopic image

GIF IT UP will be co-judged by Adam Green, Editor of the Public Domain Review and by Brian Wolly, Digital Editor of

Winners will have their work featured and celebrated online at the Public Domain Review and also on The gallery entries with the most amount of Tumblr “notes” will receive the People’s Choice Award and will appear online at the Public Domain Review and alongside the category winners.

All the details and guidelines can be found at both DigitalNZ and the DPLA (which includes the submission form) and eligible entries will be posted to the GIF IT UP Tumblr gallery.

William Blake and Paul Mellon: The Life of the Mind

Matthew Hargraves - October 7, 2014 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


Matthew Hargraves, Chief Curator of Art Collections at the Yale Center for British Art, looks at Paul Mellon as a collector of William Blake and the impact of his lifelong fascination with psychology and psychiatry on his collecting.

The Yale Center for British Art holds one of the world’s greatest collections of the work of William Blake thanks to the enthusiasm of its founder, Paul Mellon, for Blake’s art and ideas. Looking back on his life, Paul Mellon remembered that Blake’s “haunting poetry with its arcane mythology and his beautiful illuminated books have always had a special appeal for me,” an appeal rooted in his early passion for English literature which he studied at Yale in the later 1920s.1 But it was the interest of his first wife, Mary Conover Mellon, whom he married in 1935, in thought and methods of Carl Jung that helped transform Paul Mellon into a major collector of Blake’s work.2

Mary had introduced Paul Mellon to Jung’s ideas after they met in late 1933; even before marriage they had begun Jungian analysis in New York. In the early summer of 1938, Mr. and Mrs. Mellon journeyed to Switzerland and spent several weeks in Ascona above Lake Maggiore hoping the mountain air would relieve Mary’s chronic asthma. By coincidence Carl Jung was also in Ascona and the couple met the psychiatrist for the first time that summer. They returned the following year and saw Jung again before settling in Zurich in September 1939 to meet with Jung as patients several times a week. Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 meant this Swiss idyll could not last. In the spring of 1940 Mr. Mellon took a walking holiday with Jung but the obvious threat from Nazi Germany could not be ignored. He and Mary returned hastily to the United States shortly before the occupation of Denmark, Norway and France in May. By June 1941, feeling compelled to take action, Paul had enlisted in the US army; December saw the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States enter the war.

Fig. 1: There Is No Natural Religion, Plate 9, “Therefore God becomes . . . . ” (Bentley b12), ca. 1788 – Source.

While wartime service forced an end to the relationship with Jung, the year Paul Mellon enlisted was also the year he began to collect important works by Blake, an artist in whom Mr. Mellon found new interest through Jung’s exploration of the unconscious and his theories about collective archetypes. In 1941 he acquired some exceptional books. This included There is No Natural Religion (1794) [fig. 1], an “illuminated” book of eleven color-printed relief etchings with pithy text critiquing the reductive philosophical materialism of his day; a set of the engraved Illustrations to the Book of Job (1825) in its original binding; and a copy of Blake’s engravings illustrating Edward Young’s Night Thoughts (1797) [fig. 2], one of two copies believed to have been hand-colored by Blake himself.

Fig. 2: Young’s Night Thoughts, Page 43, “Night the Third, Narcissa”, 1797 – Source.

Another very significant acquisition in 1941 was a version of Blake’s illustration to The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins [fig. 3], made around 1825 for William Haines of Chichester and one of four replicas of an original design drawn for his patron Thomas Butts in around 1805. Blake adapted the traditional iconography of the judgment of souls to capture the underlying theological meaning of the parable (Matthew 25:1-13), but in the Mellon version the setting has become distinctively English with its distant Gothic spires. It was also one of the first English drawings acquired by Paul Mellon who would eventually form the most comprehensive collection of English works on paper outside of Britain.

Fig. 3: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, ca. 1825 – Source.

The enthusiasm for Jung continued despite the war, including an enterprising scheme in the early part of 1945 for Mellon to enlist Jung’s help with psychological propaganda against the retreating German army. Germany’s surrender made the mission redundant and Paul was back home in Virginia by August that year. Almost immediately, and despite Paul’s growing reservations about aspects of Jung’s ideas, the Mellons established the Bollingen Foundation, under the directorship of his their great friend Jack Barrett, with the goal of publishing Jung’s collected works in English translation. But, as Paul Mellon explained later, the foundation’s broader mission was to publish “books devoted to subjects relating to art, aesthetics, anthropology, archaeology, psychology, philosophy, symbolism and comparative religion.”3

At the same time that the Mellons were immersed in the worlds of Jung and Blake, Mary began to form a major collection of alchemical books and manuscripts inspired by Jung’s own collection of similar material. But the return to civilian life was soon clouded by tragedy. In October 1946 after Paul had been home only a year, Mary Mellon died suddenly from an asthma attack. Paul Mellon continued acquiring alchemical material after her death and in 1965 he donated the entire collection of over three hundred items to the Beinecke Library at Yale University.4 From the later 1940s he was also beginning to support psychiatric institutions and therapeutic programs, including the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Hygiene at Yale University, one of the first dedicated departments of psychiatry at a medical school in the country.5

The mid-1940s were a difficult period in Paul Mellon’s life. Looking back he recognized how the destruction and privation he had witnessed in the war had changed him and the extent to which his wife’s death “overshadowed my life for some time.”6 He found solace in collecting, returning to the work of Blake and acquiring important books such a copy of the Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789, 1794) in 1947, the two books bound together in one volume by Blake’s friend George Cumberland; and a copy of Europe a Prophecy in 1948. Blake wrote Europe in 1794 and printed it in 1795, the hand-coloring in Mr. Mellon’s copy believed by some scholars to be the work of Blake’s wife and collaborator, Catherine. This copy was particularly significant for having been in the Disraeli family, bought by Isaac D’Israeli in the 1820s and bequeathed to his son, Benjamin Disraeli, the future Earl of Beaconsfield, in 1848. Europe dealt with that continent’s history from the time of Christ to Blake’s own day, exalting liberty and attacking especially the repressive forces of monarchy and clericalism. Its frontispiece, one of Blake’s most celebrated designs, represents the repressive figure of Urizen compassing the earth, attempting to measure and constrain the infinite [fig. 4].

Fig. 4: Europe. A Prophecy, Plate 1, Frontispiece, 1794 – Source.

In Blake’s complex, personal mythology, the figure of Urizen embodied conformity, and the repressive, rationalist, and materialistic philosophy of the age. Urizen was the enemy of all Imagination, who corrupted the natural ability of people to see things in their true essence. Blake contrasted him to Los, to whom he was once joined, and who represented for Blake the imaginative faculty and the spirit of revolution. Fresh from the horrors of war in Europe, disconcerted by the rising materialist spirit in post-war America, and concerned to help those afflicted with mental illness, Paul Mellon perhaps found resonances in Blake’s impassioned text and images, written as Blake watched the liberating promise of Revolutionary France descend into the bloodshed of the Terror and the spread of war across the Continent.

In the early 1950s Paul Mellon drifted away from Jungian influence and began almost a decade of Freudian analysis in Washington DC, a time he also got to know Anna Freud in London before becoming a significant supporter of her Foundation and what became the Anna Freud Centre for the psychiatric treatment of children. It was in 1953, as he was exploring Freudian psychology, that Paul Mellon bought his most important Blake book, Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion, a book that is at once Blake’s most difficult but also his greatest. He had begun writing Jerusalem in 1804 but had not completed it until 1821 only to find almost no one would buy the epic work. It dealt with the necessary reunion of Albion, symbolizing humanity, with Jerusalem (Albion’s ‘emanation’) representing Liberty and the free exercise of the Imagination [fig. 5]; but so abstruse, complex, and erratic is the text that is has been suggested it may reflect Blake’s own complicated psychological state in his final years, perhaps even schizophrenic tendencies.7

Fig. 5: Jerusalem, Plate 26, “Such Visions Have….”, 1804 to 1820 – Source.

Only five complete copies survive and this unique, hand-colored copy printed in orange ink was retained by Catherine Blake after her husband’s death and was bequeathed to Frederick Tatham when she died in 1831. Tatham was one of the Ancients, the young brotherhood of artists yearning to restore art to its primitive simplicity and who discovered the neglected and penurious Blake in his final years. Tatham had taken Catherine in after William’s death and received from her not only works by Blake but also anecdotes of his life which he wrote down and bound with the Mellon copy of Jerusalem as well as a visionary drawing by Richmond of Blake in youth and old age [fig. 6].

Fig. 6: William Blake in Youth and Age, by George Richmond, after Frederick Tatham, ca. 1830 – Source.

The enthusiasm and patronage of Tatham and his friends Samuel Palmer and George Richmond rescued Blake from abject poverty and isolation. Most important for Blake was the support of John Linnell, Palmer’s father-in-law and a friend of Blake’s since 1818, who commissioned work from Blake in his last years. Among the commissions Linnell gave Blake was a set of illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy that he began in 1824. This project, consisting of 102 watercolors, was left unfinished at his death. Blake had begun to make seven copperplates after his designs but had pulled only proof states before leaving the drawings and plates to Linnell. Linnell pulled some impressions from Blake’s plates after 1838 and Paul Mellon acquired two sets of the Illustrations to Dante in the early 1960s, which must have had a special significance to him. Mary Mellon had been especially interested in Dante. “Mary” he recalled in 1992, “had made a careful study of Dante’s Divine Comedy while at Vassar (I still have her copy of the book with her assiduous penciled annotations on nearly every page.)”8

By the late 1950s Paul Mellon had begun collecting British art with a new earnestness. His first collecting from the 1930s had been chiefly focused on books and some sporting paintings, but this developed into acquiring paintings and sculpture, as well as prints and drawings. In 1948 he married Rachel “Bunny” Lambert, and the new Mr. and Mrs. Mellon became the foremost art collectors in the United States and icons of elegant and understated style. Naturally his approach to Blake evolved too, with the acquisition of more drawings to go along with the illuminated books and prints. In the 1950s he bought rare landscape studies, and 1961 he acquired Blake’s tempera painting of the Virgin and Child followed the next year by what would become one of his favorite works of art: Blake’s miniature Horse [fig. 7].

Fig. 7: The Horse, ca. 1805 – Source.

This tiny tempera painting was made on a copperplate in around 1805 when Blake was working on illustrations to a new edition of the poems of William Hayley, here illustrating a ballad in which a mother steps bravely between her child and a fierce Arabian horse and tames it.9 Paul Mellon kept it in his Manhattan study until his death in 1999, an object combining his three chief passions for art, literature and horses. But it was in 1966 that Paul Mellon made his most significant acquisition of Blake drawings, buying the Illustrations to Gray’s Poems, a complete set of drawings to the collected works of Thomas Gray. These were made for the sculptor John Flaxman who approached Blake in around 1797 to illustrate Gray’s poetry as a birthday gift for his wife, Nancy. A printed edition of Gray’s poems was dismembered and attached to the center of fifty-eight large sheets of paper on which Blake drew his own designs. Despite illustrating another poet’s work, one of the most striking and characteristically Blakean sheets represents Hyperion, father of the sun, bursting forth to banish darkness and suffering [fig. 8].

The Poems of Thomas Gray, Design 45, “The Progress of Poesy.”, ca. 1797 – Source.

Blake associated the physical sun with Urizen’s corrupt material world, but the spiritual essence of the sun was the province of Los whom Blake associated with Poetic Genius and Imagination.10 For Blake, Imagination was the world of real essences of which the visible world was merely a faint echo. He once argued that “This World of Imagination is the World of Eternity. . . . This World is Infinite & Eternal whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation is Finite & Temporal.”11 Paul Mellon’s interest in psychology is one reason why Blake held such a lifelong fascination given that Blake’s own life’s work was to free the Imaginative faculty from the forces of repression. Despite the incomprehension of his contemporaries and his poverty, Blake kept his devotion to spiritual and mental freedom alive until the day he died. This impulse has remained a vital force long after his death. And in his final months he explained to George Cumberland that his physical body might be “feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit & Life, not in the Real Man The Imagination which Liveth for Ever.”12

Matthew Hargraves is Chief Curator of Art Collections and Head of Collections Information and Access at the Yale Center for British Art. He specializes in British art of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and is the author of Candidates for Fame: The Society of Artists of Great Britain (Yale UP, 2006); Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale UP, 2007); Varieties of Romantic Experience: Drawings from the Collection of Charles Ryskamp (YCBA, 2010); and A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany (Paul Holberton, 2014).

1. Paul Mellon with John Baskett, Reflections in a Silver Spoon: A Memoir (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1992) p. 284. I am very grateful to John Baskett for kindly sharing his knowledge of Paul Mellon’s life and collecting with me, and to Amy Meyers and Scott Wilcox for their careful reading of this article.

2. For the chronology of Paul Mellon’s William Blake collecting I am indebted to Charles Ryskamp, “Paul Mellon and William Blake” in John Wilmerding (ed.), Essays in Honor of Paul Mellon: Collector and Benefactor (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1986) pp. 329-337.
3. Reflections p. 172.
4. Ian MacPhail and Laurence C. Witten, “The Mellon Collection of Alchemy and the Occult” in The Yale University Library Gazette 41:1 (July 1966) pp. 1-15.
5. Jonathan W. Engel, “Early Psychiatry at Yale: Milton C. Winternitz and the Founding of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Hygiene,” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 67 (1994) p. 34.
6. Reflections p. 222.
7. Robert Essick, ‘Jerusalem and Blake’s final works’ in Morris Eaves, ed., The Cambridge Companion to William Blake (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) p. 257
8. Reflections p. 163
9. The exact dating of The Horse is uncertain. Though ca. 1805 seems likely, stylistically it resembles work of the 1820s. See Martin Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981) p. ?? no. 366.
10. S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake (Boulder: Shambala, 1979) p. 246
11. William Blake, ‘A Vision of the Last Judgment,’ in David V. Erdman, ed., The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake (1965; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982) p. 555.
12. Robert William Blake to George Cumberland, April 12, 1827, cited in Robert N. Essick, The Separate Plates of William Blake: A Catalogue (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983) p. 122.

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.

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.