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

Lotte Belice Baltussen - July 3, 2013 in Featured, Guest Blog Post


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.

Tips for data providers: how to make open culture data re-use easier

Lotte Belice Baltussen - November 21, 2012 in Featured, GLAM-Wiki, Guest Blog Post


Creator: TigerPixel, see CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This year, the Dutch network Open Culture Data received many tips from developers and other open data re-users of cultural datasets about the best ways for data providers to make their datasets available. In this blog post, we give an overview of the most important recommendations to concentrate on as data provider in order to increase the re-use of your open cultural datasets.

What’s the best place to store my data?

  • Always make your data (content and / or metadata) available on your own website. This way it’s clear that you are the original provider. Another advantage is that you will often have a better overview of the access to and re-use of your data than if you only provide access to it elsewhere.
  • You can provide both content (e.g. images, videos), and the information about this content as well (metadata). The metadata is almost always stored on a different place than the content. If you provide both content and metadata, then make sure that it’s clear where they can be found. Ideally, add a separate field in the metadata with a URL to the content, for example the URL of the images or videos.

Besides writing a data blog, how can I provide more information about my open cultural dataset?

  • As stated above, ideally re-users can easily find a link in your metadata to the online version of the record in your own catalogue or on your own website.
  • If your organisation has an online shop where users can order content, then it is important for end users to clearly mark your Open Cultural Dataset content as such: open. For this you can for instance use (links to) Creative Commons licenses. The reason for this is that it’s confusing for re-users to see a shopping cart next to a photo which you provide as open data elsewhere. If you don’t make re-use conditions explicit, this can eventually lead to less re-use.
  • Make sure there’s an explanation or news section on your website about the sort of open cultural dataset(s) your institution provides. For this, you can use the text of your data blog.
  • Always include a field in your metadata with specific rights status information, and make clear under which conditions and license(s) you provide your content and / or metadata. Open Culture Data guidelines’ are: provide metadata under CC0, and content under either the Creative Commons Attribution or Attribution-ShareAlike licenses, or use the Public Domain Mark when all rights to the content have expired.

What is the best way to provide my metadata?

  • Indicate clearly under which conditions you make your dataset (content and / or metadata) available. See also the last point above.
  • The preferences vary among developers and other re-users. Some are happy with a simple .csv or .txt dump of metadata, others rather have access to a full live API, where you can choose to access data in different ways (e.g. JSON, .xml). Whatever your options or limitations are, at least make sure you always clearly describe what people can find in your metadata fields in your data blog, and provide re-users with as many options as possible to approach, download and search through your data. If you have an API, then describe which standard you’re using and where re-users can find more information about it.
  • Describe clearly in your data blog or – even better – in your metadata when the latest changes to your dataset were made. If changes occur regularly, provide an update incrementally, or even offer multiple versions of your dataset.

What is the best way to provide my content?

  • If you provide open content, it’s recommended to make it available in the highest resolution possible. This will stimulate re-use! Note that some developers also like to have the option to work with a smaller resolution, because this is less ‘heavy’. So ideally, you have content available in different resolutions.

Are there specific tips for getting my open cultural content on Wikipedia?

  • For re-use on Wikipedia, the following metadata fields are the most important: name of the creator, title, object type, description, creation date, measurements, current location, internal ID, license.
  • Make sure that at least these fields are properly documented.
  • If your content is labeled with an unique category on the Wikimedia Commons (for example Category:Media_from_Open_Beelden), you can get statistics about re-use of your content on Wikipedia (some examples here). These categories are assigned by the Wikimedia community itself.

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

​Click here for an overview of all Open Culture Data on OpenGLAM

Open Culture Data: Lessons learned and next steps

Lotte Belice Baltussen - April 17, 2012 in Case Studies, Front Page

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.

Open Culture Data on Twitter (Follow us!):

Open Culture Data: success of cultural apps in the Apps for the Netherlands competition

Lotte Belice Baltussen - March 12, 2012 in Case Studies, Front Page

This is part two 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 post, we talked about aim and the the first months of the initiative. In this post, we’ll highlight the outcomes of these first steps, by going into the results of the Apps for the Netherlands competition in which the Open Culture Datasets were used.

Getting the data out there – Apps for the Netherlands hackathon

The Apps for the Netherlands competition was kicked off in September 2011, with the aim to stimulate developers to use open data from the Dutch government in new applications. A hackathon was held at the end of November in which various parties – developers, coders, civil servants among others – were brought together. The available datasets were presented at the beginning of the day by people from their respective institutions, and a workshop was held to present Open Culture Data.

Code Camping hackathon, 27 November 2011 in Amsterdam. Photo by: Breyten Ernsting

After a day of coding, the first demo apps were presented by the developers. Several of them had already incorporated open culture data.

Competition outcomes – large-scale use of open culture data
In total, 13 ‘culture’ apps were made made, 8 of which were deemed advanced enough by their developers to be submitted for the competition. The apps were very diverse, ranging from a cultural history quiz based on the Rijksmuseum dataset to historical videos enriched with various open datasets.

Rijks-quiz, made by Ronald Klip from ContenteContent, in which the user has to pick the correct maker of an artwork.

Open Images videos enriched with open data from e.g. Wikipedia and the Amsterdam Museum, made by Jaap Blom from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision’s R&D department.

The Apps for the Netherlands prizes were awarded in January and handed out by the Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Maxime Verhagen. Three apps made with culture data won prizes. The app that went home with the overall gold prize was ‘Vistory‘1, built and designed by Glimworm IT2. Vistory combines history and videos from the Open Images dataset3 by using a smart phone’s geo-location technology. By freezing a frame, the user can recognize a location and take a photo using an overlay “reverse augmented reality”4 function of the app. When the picture is taken, the video is tagged with the exact geo-location. Also, the specific time signature on the video is tagged with the photo of how the scene looks, creating a “then and now” effect.

Vistory website

The value of Open Culture Data

Eight of the 46 apps submitted for the competition incorporated one or more open culture datasets, even though in total there were around 150 datasets available. This large-scale interest in culture datasets in a competition mainly aimed at governmental data re-use shows that there is much value to be gained by opening up culture data. Similarly, the institutions that contributed their data have come into contact with a new and enthusiastic community that has provided new insights and results on how to re-use digital collections. We will discuss the lessons-learned and the official continuation of the project in the third and final installment of this series of blog posts.

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.

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

Lotte Belice Baltussen - February 16, 2012 in Case Studies, Front Page

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.