Save Europeana and the cultural ecosystem: Open Culture Data and OpenGLAM support AllezCulture


This post has been written by Lotte Baltussen, project manager at the R&D department at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and member of the Dutch initiative Open Culture Data that aims to make cultural datasets available under open conditions and stimulate their re-use, and edited by Joris Pekel, coordinator of the OpenGLAM network. OpenGLAM and Open Culture Data work together extensively and we therefore jointly make this call to support Europeana.

Europeana brings together cultural collections from heritage organisations all over Europe. Through this digital library, over 27 million objects from these collections, such as books, paintings, videos and sounds can now be found from one central location. Europeana has also made all information of this content (metadata) available fully openly available, so everyone can reuse and build upon this cultural wealth.

The budget of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) that Europeana is also part of, has been drastically reduced due to funding cuts, 9 to 1 billion euros. This severly threatens Europeana’s future. The coming weeks the EU member states will decide how the CEF budget will be distributed up to 2020. This will determine the fate of how the richness of the digital heritage of Europe can be accessed and reused in the – very – near future. Europeana helps cultural organisations to open up their collections and stimulates their reuse. These are also central goals for Open Culture Data and OpenGLAM, and it is crucial that Europeana can continue to actively build a digital ‘Cultural Commons‘. We therefore support Europeana’s #AllezCulture campaign and petition to create awareness for its future.

####Europeana unites the cultural community

Europeana facilitates a network and infrastructure for digital heritage in Europe. Not just because organisations can make their collections findable through Europeana, but also by forming an international GLAM network. Europeana organises workshops and conferences where partners can meet each other and exchange knowledge. Also, there are many European projects that support Europeana by aggregating content on specific topics and making them available on their own portals and Europeana (e.g. EUscreen for television archives and Europeana Fashion). Finally, a number of very successful crowdsourcing initiatives have been set up, such as Europeana 1914-1918 and Europeana 1989.

####Europeana stimulates openness

Europeana doesn’t stop with the formation of a European network of GLAMs and setting up public outreach activities. Opening up metadata, content and technical infrastructures is a focal point, that is formalised in various ways. A very crucial first step was made when Europeana created access to all metadata contibuted by partners in the most possible way by using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0). By doing this, the information about tens of millions of cultural objects from all over Europe was made available for everyone to access and reuse in any way they want. And with great results: at the moment there are 770 entrepeneurs, companies and educational and cultural organisations that reuse of this rich open data source through the Europeana API, for instance in apps, websites and games. This number continues to grow as a result of project like Europeana Creative, that puts reuse of cultural heritage at the core of their activities. The Digital Public Library of America, an initiative comparable to Europeana, has also opted to make all partner metadata available under CC0. This decision was very much inspired by Europeana’s bold step.

####Europeana stimulates reuse

In order to stimulate reuse of cultural collection by creative industries, it is important that not just metadata, but the digital objects themselves are openly licenced. Thus, Europeana encourages partners and other GLAMs to do so, provided the rights status of the objects permits this. As a result, a large part of the content available through is available as Open Culture Data. In total, almost six million objects have a license that complies with the Open Definition. In sister projects like Europeana Creative, GLAMs and creative industries are connected in order to stimulate creative reuse. Recently the iPad app ‘Europeana Open Culture’ made by GlimwormIT was released which lets users intuitively search and browse open collecties that are part of Europeana. The source code of the app was made available openly which allows other developers to further build upon and improve the software for new applications.

#AllezCulture! No Europeana = no European Cultural Commons

Even though Europeana is only five years old, it has in this relatively short time become a digital, cultural European ecosystem and the central hub for European heritage. If the Connecting Europe Facility drastically cuts Europeana’s budget this ecosystem will be severely threatened, and the potential and ambition of the platform cannot be extended further or even maintained. Open Culture Data and OpenGLAM therefore fully support the #AllezCulture campaign. Visit the #AllezCulture! website for more information and sign the petition to safeguard the future of the European Cultural Commons. Thanks.