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Europeana Creative Culture Jam

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

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


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

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

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



Dutch cultural heritage reaches millions every month

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Preliminary outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

GLAM expectations

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

More info

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

OpenGLAM Open Collections

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

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



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


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


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

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

Future work

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


The Forth Bridge: Building an Icon

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designing the Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Artwork by Jamie Seaboch / EyeQ Innovations CC BY-SA

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

Photomediations: An Open Book

Joanna Zylinska - May 11, 2015 in eSpace, Featured, News

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

The team from the Open and Hybrid Publishing pilot are pleased to announce the launch of Photomediations: An Open Book. The pilot redesigns a coffee-table book as an online experience to produce a creative resource that explores the dynamic relationship between photography and other media. Photomediations: An Open Book uses open (libre) content, drawn from various online repositories (Europeana, Wikipedia Commons, Flickr Commons) and tagged with the CC-BY licence and other open licences. In this way, the book showcases the possibility of the creative reuse of image-based digital resources.

Through a comprehensive introduction and four specially commissioned chapters on light, movement, hybridity and networks that include over 200 images, Photomediations: An Open Book tells a unique story about the relationship between photography and other media. The book’s four main chapters are followed by three ‘open’ chapters, which will be populated with further content over the next 18 months. The three open chapters are made up of a social space, an online exhibition and an open reader. A version of the reader, featuring academic and curatorial texts on photomediations, will be published in a stand-alone book form later in 2015, in collaboration with Open Humanities Press.

Blog image Photomediations: An Open Book’s online form allows for easy sharing of its content with educators, students, publishers, museums and galleries, as well as any other interested parties. Promoting the socially significant issues of ‘open access’, ‘open scholarship’ and ‘open education’, the project also explores a low-cost hybrid publishing model as an alternative to the increasingly threatened traditional publishing structures.

Photomediations: An Open Book is a collaboration between academics from Goldsmiths, University of London, and Coventry University. Apart from being part of Europeana Space, it is also a sister project to the curated online site Photomediations Machine:

Project team: Professor Joanna Zylinska, Dr Kamila Kuc, Jonathan Shaw, Ross Varney, Dr Michael Wamposzyc. Project advisor: Professor Gary Hall.

Romania’s first Open Culture Hackathon

Lieke Ploeger - May 7, 2015 in Events/Workshops, Featured, Hack days

On the 18th and 19th of April, Timisoara hosted the first Romanian Open Culture Hackathon.  In this blog, Silviu Vert (Smart City Association Politehnica University Timisoara and Open Knowledge ambassador for Romania) reports on the the main applications that were developed during this event.

On the 18th and 19th of April, almost 30 hackers, graphic designers, artists and representatives of cultural institutions worked about 15 hours to develop 4 applications that promote local and national artworks. Monuments, postcards, paintings, portraits of the royal family that can usually be found on museums’ or archives’ websites can be soon downloaded on mobile devices.

iG4ycLm Timisoara City Art is a mobile application that helps both residents and tourists to explore Timisoara’s public space monuments. The app has multiple functionalities, such as the possibility to identify on the map where the monuments are located, the distance and the means of transport that takes you there. It also allows users- art consumers to find out information about the sculpture or the building through augmented reality. Timisoara City Art

Open MarT is an alternative website for the Museum of Art from Timisoara. Besides the online exposure of works of art owned by the museum, the platform offers information about 50 paintings, allowing virtual visitors to comment on the works and to find out masterpieces using a keyword-based search engine. Thus, the website changes the culture of dialogue between the public and the museum.

Open MArT

My Postcard links postcards from twenty century Bucharest, provided by The National Museum of Art of Romania and pictures from nowadays. Users can locate on the map the buildings caught in the postcards and what have they been replaced with. The platform testifies the changes in the city’s architecture and urban planning.

My Postcard

The Royal Album is a gallery of portraits of the Romanian Royal Family, turned into a platform that allows users to identify the members of the Royal Family and to discover personality treats that made them famous.

Royal Album

The event was organized by the Romanian Coalition for Open Data, the Department for Online Services and Design – Romanian Government, Smart City Association, Kosson Community, Open Knowledge Romania, Polytechnic University Timisoara, The West University Timisoara and the Timisoara City Hall. The event was supported by the SEE Grants 2009-2014 through the NGO Fund in Romania.

Europeana Space Technical Workshop

Matt Moore - April 10, 2015 in eSpace, Events/Workshops, Featured

As part of the Open Knowledge systems administrators team, I was recently invited along to the Europeana Space technical workshop which was held in Brussels at the end of March. Europeana Space aims to increase and enhance the creative industries’ use of online collections of digital cultural content such as Europeana, One of the spaces the project will build is the Technical Space, a framework for storing, accessing and processing cultural heritage content and metadata. The current technical workshop focused on presenting the architecture and implementation choices for the Technical Space, as well as informing participants about the latest developments of Europeana Labs.

After a couple of short plane journeys, I arrived in Brussels on the Sunday evening. The weather was lovely and Brussels is a wonderful city, so after a short stroll I arrived at the iMinds building bright and early on Monday morning keen to find out more about Europeana Space. The first and second talks by Antonella Fresa and James Morley provided us all with a introduction to the project and to the Europeana Labs. Then after a short coffee break we got into the technical part of the day, which was a series of talks by Nasos Drosopoulos on the eSpace technical infrastructure and Remy Gardien on practical experiments using Europeana Labs. The day was then finished with a series of discussions which everyone participated in about potential options for the direction of the Europeana APIs. The second day continued with discussions on how to use and develop the API further.


I found the idea of an API for accessing a large number of digital museum and gallery objects to be a really interesting one. While the Europeana Labs project is still in early stages there is a lot of promise with what has already been done. I’d like to highlight a couple of projects which use the API to show people what’s possible. These two are my personal favourites. Firstly, there is, which uses the API in a quite modest way to enhance a site which also uses other data sources. Secondly is VanGoYourself which works on the simple premise of recreating famous paintings with a photograph. It’s a lovely little whimsical website and the photos are great fun to spend a bit of time browsing.

The conference was very enjoyable and I for one look forward to seeing what Europeana Labs and Europeana Space produce in the future. Also it’ll be great to see what use people make of the API.

A full album of photos can be found here on Google plus.  All slides and another summary is available here, and you can watch recordings made during the event through this channel.

Community building through the DM2E project

Lieke Ploeger - April 9, 2015 in Digital Humanities, Featured, Linked Open Data, Projects

This blog is cross-posted from the Open Knowledge blog.

During the past three years, Open Knowledge has been leading the community building work in the Digitised Manuscripts to Europeana (DM2E) project, a European research project in the area of Digital Humanities led by Humboldt University. Open Knowledge activities included the organisation of a series of events such as Open Data in Cultural Heritage workshops, running two rounds of the Open Humanities Awards and the establishment of OpenGLAM as an active volunteer-led community pushing for increased openness in cultural heritage.

DM2E and the Linked Open Web

dm2e_logoAs one of its core aims, the DM2E project worked on enabling libraries and archives to easily upload their digitised material into Europeana – the online portal that provides access to millions of items from a range of Europe’s leading galleries, libraries, archives and museums. In total, over 20 million manuscript pages from libraries, archives and research institutions were added during the three years of the project. In line with theEuropeana Data Exchange Agreement, all contributing institutions agreed to make their metadata openly available under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication license (CC-0), which allows for easier reuse.

Since different providers make their data available in different formats, the DM2E consortium developed a toolset that converted metadata from a diverse range of formats into the DM2E model, an application profile of the Europeana Data Model (EDM). The developed software also allows the contextualisation and linking of this cultural heritage data sets, which makes this material suitable for use within the Linked Open Web. An example of this is the Pundit tool, which Net7 developed to enable researchers to add annotations in a digital text and link them to related texts or other resources on the net (read more).

Open Knowledge achievements

Open Knowledge was responsible for the community building and dissemination work within DM2E, which, apart from promoting and documenting the project results for a wide audience, focused on promoting and raising awareness around the importance of open cultural data. The presentation below sums up the achievements made during the project period, including the establishment of OpenGLAM as a community, the organisation of the event series and the Open Humanities Awards, next to the extensive project documentation and dissemination through various channels.


OpenGLAM-logoIn order to realise the value of the tools developed in DM2E, as well as to truly integrate the digitised manuscripts into the Linked Data Web, there need to be enough other open resources to connect to and an active community of cultural heritage professionals and developers willing to extend and re-use the work undertaken as part of DM2E. That is why Open Knowledge set up the OpenGLAM community: a global network of people and organisations who are working to open up cultural content and data. OpenGLAM focuses on promoting and furthering free and open access to digital cultural heritage by maintaining an overview of Open Collections, providing documentation on the process and benefits of opening up cultural data, publishing regular news and blog items and organising diverse events.

Since the start in 2012, OpenGLAM has grown into a large, global, active volunteer-led community (and one of the most prominent Open Knowledge working groups to date), supported by a network of organisations such as Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America, Creative Commons and Wikimedia. Apart from the wider community taking part in the OpenGLAM discussion list, there is a focused Working Group of 17 open cultural data activists from all over the world, a high-level Advisory Board providing strategic guidance and four local groups that coordinate OpenGLAM-related activities in their specific countries. Following the end of the DM2E project, the OpenGLAM community will continue to push for openness in digital cultural heritage.

Open Humanities Awards

openhumanitieslogosAs part of the community building efforts, Open Knowledge set up a dedicated contest awards series focused on supporting innovative projects that use open data, open content or open source tools to further teaching and research in the humanities: the Open Humanities Awards. During the two competition rounds that took place between 2013-2014, over 70 applications were received, and 5 winning projects were executed as a result, ranging from an open source Web application which allows people to annotate digitized historical maps (Maphub) to an improved search application for Wittgenstein’s digitised manuscripts (Finderapp WITTfind). Winners published their results on a regular basis through the DM2E blog and presented their findings at conferences in the field, proving that the awards served as a great way to stimulate innovative digital humanities research using open data and content. Details on all winning projects, as well as final reports on their results, are available from this final report.

DM2E event series

Over the course of the project, Open Knowledge organised a total of 18 workshops, focused on promoting best practices in legal and technical aspects of opening up metadata and cultural heritage content, providing demonstration and training with the tools and platforms developed in the project and hackdays and coding sprints. Highlights included the Web as Literature conference at the British Library in 2013, the Open Humanities Hack series and the Open Data in Cultural Heritage workshops, as a result of which several local OpenGLAM groups were started up. A full list of events and their outcomes is available from this final report.

og_fringe_okfest14Open Data in Cultural Heritage Workshop: Starting the OpenGLAM group for Germany (15 July 2014, Berlin)

It has been a great experience being part of the DM2E consortium: following the project end, the OpenGLAM community will be sustained and built upon, so that we can realise a world in which our shared cultural heritage is open to all regardless of their background, where people are no longer passive consumers of cultural content created by an elite, but contribute, participate, create and share.

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Gallipoli: Through the Soldier’s Lens

Alison Wishart - April 8, 2015 in Curator's Choice, Featured, Public Domain


To mark the 100 years since Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) fought the Gallipoli campaign of WW1, Alison Wishart, Senior Curator of Photographs at Australian War Memorial, explores the remarkable photographic record left by the soldiers. Made possible by the birth of Kodak’s portable camera, the photographs give a rare and intimate portrait of the soldier’s day-to-day life away from the heat of battle.


2015 marks the centenary of one of the most commemorated events in Australia’s military history. One hundred years ago, at dawn of 25th April, boatloads of Australians and New Zealanders quietly landed on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula at a beach that became known as Anzac Cove.

Had Australia’s military commanders and elected leaders known how significant this event was to become in Australia’s history and the development of its national identity, they might have thought to send official photographers or war artists. But they didn’t. Instead, the photographic record of the nine month Gallipoli campaign relies primarily on the images taken by soldiers.

Fortunately, Kodak had released its ‘Vest Pocket’ camera in 1912, which made taking a camera to the front more feasible. Kodak encouraged enlistees to do this, marketing their new model as ‘the soldier’s Kodak’. Below is pictured the camera used by Sergeant P E Virgoe at Gallipoli from May-October 1915.

Vest pocket Kodak camera belonging to Sergeant P E Virgoe, 4 Light Horse Regiment, AIF (ca. 1913) / REL33223 – Source.

Officially, soldiers were not allowed to take a camera to the front. This was stipulated by Britain’s Secretary of State for the War, Lord Kitchener, after the bloody allied defeats of 1914 made it clear that manipulation of the public record of the war would be necessary to maintain enthusiasm for it. However, while the ruling was strictly enforced on the Western Front, it was barely given a cursory nod at Gallipoli. This allowed amateur and semi-professional photographer-soldiers to practice their focusing and framing skills in between their duties.

Approximately half of the Australians who fought at Gallipoli – nearly 25,000 recruits – left for their great overseas ‘adventure’ with a compact camera in their kit. Many of the nurses tending the wounded on the nearby Greek Island of Lemnos also carried a camera.

Informal portrait of Sister Emily Cornelia (Corrie) Parish, of 2nd Australian General Hospital, holding a camera (ca. 1915) / P05382.018 – Source.

Little did they know that by creating their own visual diary, they would also be contributing to Australia’s only photographic record of the Dardanelles campaign. Of the 6,332 Gallipoli images from 1915 in the Australian War Memorial’s collection, soldiers took about 60 per cent. After the war, soldiers or their families donated their photographs to the Memorial, often in the form of personal albums or loose prints.

As ‘soldier photographers’, when they opened the shutter, they had a completely different purpose in mind from creating an official record of the war. This gives their photographs a raw, unmediated honesty.

Landing stores at Watson’s Pier, Gallipoli, Turkey (1915) / P00649.008 – Source.

The men documented their daily life which was often boring and monotonous. In between battles, there were long stretches of ‘fatigues’ such as digging trenches and dugouts, carrying water up from the beaches or wells and going on sentry duty. As soldiers, they were not in a position to photograph their fighting, so they took snaps of their daily life instead. What the photographs lack in composition, they make up for in their poignant and candid simplicity.

Left: A soldier carrying water in two kerosene tins (1915) / C00776 – Source. Right: Army cooks outside the dugout which serves as the cookhouse for the headquarters of the 4th Light Horse Regiment, 1st AIF (1915) / P00859.002 – Source.

The photographs complement the soldiers’ written records. Sapper Victor Willey, a 22 year old from Victoria (service no. 134) wrote about his awful rations in a letter to his parents dated 7 September 1915:

We are fed up with this life, and the strain upon our constitution is terrible. In fact, some of us who have been in the trenches since 25th April and are now as weak as cats and no wonder! [. . .] in the morning we get a piece of bacon about six inches long [. . .] (but it is nearly all fat) and about a pint of tea with hard biscuits. On rare occasions we also get a loaf of bread. For dinner [lunch], we have three courses – water, tea and sugar (lovely). For tea, we have bully-beef stew (done to perfection). This happens every day, barring the bread – but at times the bread is forgotten altogether.

The Memorial does not hold any photographs taken by Willey but it does hold many photographs of the food he speaks of.

The 1st Australian Field Bakery established on ‘K’ Beach, Imbros / C04618 – Source.


Officers of D Company, 10th Battalion eating a meal in their dugout mess. Left to right: Lieutenant (Lt) William Howard Perry, MC; Lt William Stanley Frayne (killed in action 6 August 1915); Lt John de Courey Harrison; Captain Felix Gordon Giles, DSO, Officer Commanding; Lt David Leslie Todd (1915) / A00715 – Source.

Staff Sergeant Hector Dinning of the Australian Army Service Corps wrote in his 1918 memoir: It’s the monotony that kills; not hard work, nor hard fare. We have now been disembarked on the Peninsula rather longer than three months. But there has been little change in our way of living. Every day there is the same work on the same beach, shelled by the same guns, manned by the same Turks…

Colonel Charles Snodgrass Ryan, a surgeon with the Australian Army Medical Services, took a remarkable collection of over 180 photographs at Gallipoli and Egypt in 1915. His images, taken with a stereo camera, also depict daily life at Gallipoli, but are composed with a practised eye.

Two soldiers of the Supply Depot, 1st Australian Division, standing on the beach amongst stacked boxes of corned beef and canned meat (1915) / P02648.012 – Source.


Officers and soldiers conferring in a trench reinforced with sandbags on one of the ridges at Gallipoli (1915) / P02648.008 – Source.

Corporal Albert Savage was stationed in the x-ray ‘department’ of the 3rd Australian General Hospital on Lemnos Island, 96km from Anzac Cove and the destination for casualties evacuated from Gallipoli. The Memorial holds over 300 photographs taken by him on Lemnos which provide a valuable insight into the workings of a field hospital on an arid island.

Dawn at Lemnos (1915) / A02706 – Source.


Evacuation of patients from No. 3 Australian General Hospital (3AGH) by ambulance to the wharf for ship transport to Egypt (1916) / J01503 – Source.

Padre Walter Dexter also had a camera at Gallipoli. As an Australian army chaplain who officiated at burial services he had to come to terms with death, and some of his photographs depict this. He also photographed soldiers at the latrines. These sort of candid images would never be within the remit of official photographers.

Four unidentified men using a latrine high above the beach at Anzac Cove (1915) / J03659 – Source.


Bodies of dead soldiers lying in a row in a trench, having been covered with blankets or other items as shrouds (1915) / J04734 – Source.

One of Dexter’s photographs was acquired by Colarts Studio in Sydney and colourised and popularised by them.

A view of Anzac Cove looking north toward New Zealand Point. A hand tinted colour print produced by Colarts Studio, Sydney (ca. 1925) / P01130.001 – Source.


War correspondents Phillip Schuler and Charles Bean travelled with their cameras as well as their typewriters. Before embarking for Gallipoli, they photographed each other on the same pyramid in Egypt.

Left: Captain C E W Bean on top of the Pyramid of Cheops (1915) / PS1399 – Source Right: Phillip (Peter) Schuler, the Age special correspondent, standing on the same pyramid (1915) / G01651 – Source.

The Memorial holds more than 2000 of Schuler’s evocative photographs from Gallipoli and the western front (where he was killed in June 1917) including a much reproduced image after the battle of Lone Pine.

A trench at Lone Pine after the battle, showing Australian and Turkish dead on the parapet (1915) / A02025 – Source.

Charles Bean, Australia’s only official war correspondent at Gallipoli, felt that photographs should tell the “plain, simple truth”. He disagreed vehemently with the practice of Ernest Brooks, who staged photographs for dramatic effect, such as the photograph seen below. Brooks was appointed by the British Admiralty to photograph British and Australian troops at Gallipoli.

A staged photograph: The original Admiralty caption to this photograph reads: “An Australian bringing in a wounded comrade to hospital. Notwithstanding the unhappy situation, they joked as they made their way down from the front.” (1915) / G00599 – Source.

Charles Bean went on to help establish the Australian War Records Section in 1917 and write the Official History of the Australian Imperial Forces in the First World War. His photographs, such as that of an outdoor communion service, helped him recall the events of the Great War.

An open-air communion service at Anzac (1915) / G01432 – Source.

For the 25,000+ Australian soldiers who took cameras to Gallipoli, their photographs also served as memory triggers. When they returned from the war, the images reminded them that amidst the monotony of trench life – the flies, heat, dust, stench and thirst of the summer stalemate – they found people and events worth photographing. A century on, we are grateful to these soldier photographers for giving us a glimpse into their life at Gallipoli. Devoid of hubris, but often full of humour and pathos, these photographs provide a unique record of life at the front line. As Australians and New Zealanders around the world gather at dawn this Anzac Day, I hope we will remember not just the soldiers who landed on the beaches, but also the remarkable photographic record they created.


Alison Wishart has worked as a curator and/or collection manager since 2003 at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville and the State Library of Queensland (Brisbane) before moving to Canberra in 2008 to work at the National Museum of Australia and now the Australian War Memorial where she holds the position of Senior Curator of Photographs. She has a BA (Hons) from the University of Queensland and a Masters in Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage. Alison is currently researching the psychological, social and physical impacts of food at Gallipoli and online memorialisation.

To learn more about Australian War Memorial visit their website and browse their digital 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. Learn more here. See this post in all its full page width glory over at The Public Domain Review.