Open Culture Data: Lessons learned and next steps

This is the final part 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. In the previous blog posts we talked about the aims and the the first months of the initiative and the results of the Apps for the Netherlands competition in which the Open Culture Datasets were used. In this post, we will describe the lessons-learned and the plans for the future.

What we have learned

Although the initiative is still very young, and we quite bluntly started out with just trying something, we can already share some lessons we have learned:

First of all, innovators lead the way!

By gathering the right group of professionals in the cultural domain who believed in the (potential) power of open and were willing to experiment, we created a small but very powerful vanguard. This group now has gained experience with open data in practice and knows what the added value of having an open stand towards collections and information can be. They can now lead the way for other institutions to open up. For example: When the Rijksmuseum joined the initiative, this inspired other institutions like the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden to also participate.

Secondly, creating practical examples really helps.

The fact that cultural institutions are hesitant to join the open data movement has a lot to do with either a lack of knowledge or a fear of the consequences for their current way of operating. Fear that their business model might be endangered and fear of people abusing their data, or re-using it for purposes they don’t agree with, like misrepresenting the data. These fears are not per se grounded in fact and experience ( See for instance the recently published white paper by Europeana on open data business models for the heritage sector: The Problem of the Yellow Milk Maid) and it withholds institutions from what you can gain by opening up, like experimenting with innovative concepts for new services or applications. We have learned that by putting open culture data in practice, cultural institutions can be convinced to join the movement.

Third and lastly, thinking about open culture data requires a multidisciplinary perspective.

Many cultural institutions have particular ideas about new applications and services for their data. But this is only one way of looking at it. We have learned that connecting cultural institutions with the ‘outside world’, the world of hackers, designers, students, but also other data providers and commercial companies is not only a lot of fun, but is also very helpful to institutions in finding new ways to make arts and culture meaningful in the digital era. A search that is shared by many, but each with different ideas of shaping this reality.

Future plans

Based on the success and great enthusiasm of the pilot phase, we are able to continue with our initiative on a structural basis in 2012, thanks to the support of the large-scale digitization programme Images for the Future and Creative Commons Netherlands. We will focus on four main pillars that are the basis of our goals to make more data and knowledge openly available by:

  1. Making more culture data openly available and collecting it in a central catalogue.
  2. Stimulating the creation of new apps and services based on Open Culture Data.
  3. Broadening the network.
  4. Sharing the knowledge and experience of Open Culture Data with the cultural sector.

This April a masterclass on open data for cultural institutions is organised with the goal to establish strategies for institutions to open up data and making them available for local hackathons. Later this year special prices for applications made with cultural data will be announced.

We would like to open up the dialogue and share experiences on how to get more culture data openly available. In this context we are participating in the ePSI platform on open data and in the OKfestival heritage strand. We think that if we can organize this across borders, Europe can learn from this on a policy level.

If you have questions, ideas or any other input, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

  • 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.

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