Open Culture Data: The First Step towards Open Culture Data in the Netherlands

The following post is by Lotte Belice Baltussen, project worker R&D at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. This is part one of three blog posts about the Dutch initiative Open Culture Data, that aims to make cultural datasets available under open conditions and stimulate their re-use.

The cultural heritage sector is becoming more aware of the power of open data. GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) realise that open access to data helps drive users to online content and that it enables the creation of new innovative services. Hence it supports cultural institutions in the fulfilment of their public mission to open up access to our collective heritage. Secondly, it stimulates collaboration in the GLAM world and beyond. This allows the creation of new services and supports creative reuse of material in new productions. In short: collaboration supports innovation. As Bill Joy notes in his ‘Joys law’: “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”. Thus, encouraging external parties to re-use publicly available sources stimulates innovation in the GLAM sector and results in services of higher quality and diversity.

Based on these developments, the existing Dutch Heritage Innovators Network – a network that stimulates innovation in the GLAM sector – launched the ‘Open Culture Data’ (Open Cultuur Data in Dutch) initiative in September 2011. The aims: make cultural datasets available under open conditions and stimulate the creation of useful and innovative applications in which these are incorporated. Two members of the Innovators Network spearheaded the initiative: the social innovation think-tank Knowledgeland and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. From the start, we collaborated with Hack de Overheid (Hack the Government), a community that facilitates and stimulates the open availability of government data in the Netherlands and the creation of new applications based on this data. In this post, we describe how we did it and what the outcomes have been so far.

Collecting Open Culture Data

In order to stimulate re-use, we collected and contributed datasets for the national app contest Apps for the Netherlands organised by Hack de Overheid that was held from September 2011 to January 2012 and which was primarily aimed at re-using open governmental data. For this, we defined rules and tips in order to make clear to contributors what principles open culture data should at least adhere to, such as not excluding commercial re-use and making clear that there is a distinction between licenses for open data and open content.

With these principles in mind, we hit the road, organised workshops and sent countless emails and made about as many phone calls to our colleagues in the Dutch cultural heritage world to open up datasets.

Open Culture Data workshop during the Apps for the Netherlands hackathon in November 2011. Photo by: Breyten Ernsting 

In total, eight datasets were made available under open conditions from the collections of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Museum, EYE Film Institute Netherlands, National Archives, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and a dataset containing information on the National Heritage Sites of the Netherlands.

In the next posts, we will write about the great apps (13 in total) that were made with these Open Culture Datasets for the Apps for the Netherlands competition. Furthermore, we will outline the lessons learned during the first months of the project and the exciting future plans.

With Open Culture Data, we envision the future cultural heritage to be open, built on intelligent infrastructures and on the concept of participation between the various stakeholders. This will allow heritage organisations to excel in terms of knowledge, applications and technologies for the wide range of end users they cater to. If you have questions, remarks ideas or any other input about our mission and the project, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Open Culture Data on Twitter

Nikki Timmermans – Knowledgeland
Lotte Belice Baltussen – Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Maarten Brinkerink – Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Maarten Zeinstra – Creative Commons Netherlands
Lex Slaghuis – Hack de Overheid

Open Culture Data is an initiative of the members of the Dutch Heritage Innovators Network and Hack de Overheid, and is supported by Images for the Future and Creative Commons Netherlands.