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Just as we need open data, we need open art

- May 24, 2016 in Featured, Guest Blog Post

This blog post was written by Chris Woolfrey, Editor of Right to Copy. You can fund Right to Copy on Kickstarter.

In 2007 the novelist Jonathan Lethem wrote “The Ecstasy of Influence” for Harper’s Magazine. In it, Lethem argues that all art by necessity connects with other art: that open lines of communication are built into the creative process and into artworks themselves.

In other words, that an artist can’t help but connect his or her work to existing things, and at the same time lay the ground for others to connect with his or her own. Discussing the connection of ideas across hundreds of years, he writes:

… consider the remarkable series of “plagiarisms” that links Ovid’s “Pyramus and Thisbe” with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, or Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra, copied nearly verbatim from Plutarch’s life of Mark Antony and also later nicked by T. S. Eliot for The Waste Land. If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.

In so writing, Lethem put eloquently something I had for a long time felt but couldn’t articulate: that sharing ideas and drawing on the ideas of others isn’t always an ideological choice. It happens without us even thinking about it.

That was the impetus for creating Right to Copy, a magazine discussing the relationship between copyright and art, and promoting a belief in the open communication of ideas. My thinking was this: if Lethem is right (and I believe that he is), then why is it that we close artworks off with stringent copyright laws?RtC front cover

For me, doing so only makes it harder for people to do what they’re doing without even meaning to: creating something – from music and film to writing, painting, video games and fashion – that naturally affects everything around it.

Though I’m probably in favour of some form of copyright law, I agree with Lawrence Lessig and the like that the current system is broken and wildly out of control. I won’t repeat those arguments here, because they’ve been better made by others – including Cory Doctorow, in Right to Copy’s first issue – but it’s clear to me that something should change, and that artists and their audiences should be talking about it.

Cory preview

Right to Copy will provide a forum for that discussion, and it will make clear that the discussion doesn’t begin and end with the law. Indeed, it will argue that how the law permeates in popular culture is much more important.

To that end, it’ll look at what an author is, and why we think authors are important; it’ll consider why originality is such a sought after thing, and how far it can really be achieved; and it’ll wonder why the kinds of discussions orchestrated by
Open Knowledge International happen in certain fields – data, software, publishing itself – but not so much in the arts and the way we discuss the arts.

And they need to happen in the arts. Mass media have always had a community element to them; it’s imperative that we not only protect that but strengthen and extend it. It’s my hope that, in publishing a magazine under an open copyright license – and more importantly, discussing issues and concepts that really matter to people – I can help in my small way to spread the word, and to bring others into the conversation and therefore empower them.  

It might be grandiose and it might not work: but if there’s an audience for the magazine then it means that there might be an audience for a different kind of art. In that sense, Right to Copy is a case study; and one that is gathering support already.



Open Marginalis: Medieval Manuscripts in Open Access

- February 29, 2016 in Featured, Guest Blog Post

This is a guest blog post by Kelly Fitzpatrick on Open Marginalis: a selection of digitized medieval manuscripts accessible under open use terms working to guide new users to open collections for casual and scholarly use (Open Marginalis, About).

Starting work on Open Marginalis, I wanted to solve a discovery problem. Institutions are choosing to make digital collections accessible under open use terms, but finding where to start can be tough for users at all levels, and knowing how to use that content can be even harder.

In action, Open Marginalis grew to function as selection of open collection highlights sourced from online resources within the scope of digitized medieval manuscripts. In this framework, the primary goal is to identify and feature selected content from open collections and aggregates like Wikimedia Commons, and share that work with the objective of highlighting open content produced by institutions – driving users back to collections through an accessible platform, and always linking back to source.

OpenMarginalis (1)

While earning my MLIS, I was interested in learning more about platforms for digital scholarship, and how those platforms can be used to boost collection access. In the final year of my MLIS, I had the opportunity to present Open Marginalis at the 2015 Simmons College Graduate Symposium as a work-in-progress under the title Open Marginalis: Medieval Marginalia in Open Access.  In the same year, I produced an overview of project goals, operations, and applied practices in OpenMarginalis: Tumblr as Platform for Digital Scholarship in Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections. In this piece, I wanted to both share applied practices for creating and growing with digital projects, and explore popular platforms like Tumblr as a place for digital scholarship.

For this project, I chose Tumblr as a platform that would support users at all levels of scholarship, while being able to reach the strong community of information institutions maintaining a presence on the platform. After years of learning more about Tumblr’s functionality as a casual user, I wanted to see how a platform that empowers users to curate information could be used as a tool for digital collections. Continuing work on Open Marginalis, I want to create a space where users can start their search – from someone looking for a place to begin their experience with digital collections in a familiar interface, to a seasoned researcher looking for something new to include in a publication that they’d like to share under open use terms. As the growing audience of Open Marginalis quickly approaches 5000 followers through Tumblr, I want to learn more about how online audiences are using Open Marginalis, and what they’d like to see more of in the future.

As a growing digital project, being able to take shape in tandem with project goals has been key to where Open Marginalis has moved since it’s start date. In the past six months, I made the decision to widen the scope of Open Marginalis from a project focusing more granularly marginalia shown in digitized medieval manuscripts, to digitized medieval manuscripts as a whole. While project goals have remained consistent, I’ve continued to experiment with different ways Open Marginalis can better improve access within its scope. For example, in late 2015, I put together a Browse by Institution page with the goal of enabling users to browse content by their source institution for a different discovery experience. More recently, I’ve started work on a Resources page for Open Marginalis with plans for future expansion – currently featuring a set of scope specific Wikimedia categories, from “Illuminated Manuscripts by Century” to “Illuminated Manuscripts by Style” as an accessible entry point for more open resources.

In future developments for Open Marginalis, I want to continue working on new approaches to supporting the visibility of digital collections, bolstering existing resources for growing audiences, and sharing applied practices from this digital project with more to come.


(Image: The British Library, Public Domain)


LGMA Storytelling Application: Irish Folktales & Poetry

- July 22, 2015 in eSpace, Featured, Guest Blog Post


As part of the Europeana Space project, the Libraries Development Team of the Irish Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is exploring the potential for reusing open digital cultural content for educational purposes. The aim is to develop a storytelling application based on Irish folktales and poems that will allow the creation of versatile teaching material to support the primary curriculum. It will also provide students with the opportunity to experiment with digital cultural content while developing literacy and creative writing skills, as well as imagination.The Fairies

The primary content of the application will consist of widely recognised folktales (The Children of Lir, and The Cattle Raid of Cooley) and poems (The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats, and The Fairies by William Allingham) of Irish origin. These will be available in a number of formats – text, audio, video, illustration – and may be explored through different story-lines of the application: map, timeline or narrative.

LGMA is a state agency in Ireland providing a range of services in support of coordinated and effective delivery of Local Government services and policy. The Libraries Development team manages the national policy for the digitisation of public library holdings and the national digitisation research and initiatives arising. The team also works with national education bodies to develop content to support the education curriculum in schools, with libraries to develop literacy and numeracy supports and liaises with teacher training colleges to tailor content and content applications to the requirements of the teacher.

The technical development of the application is supported by PostScriptum and will facilitate incorporating related open licensed content from sources such as Europeana, Wikipedia Commons and Flickr Commons. In addition, students will be encouraged to create their own interpretations of Irish folktales and poems and share them through social media.

The development of this story-telling application is a great opportunity not only to promote reuse of Europe’s rich cultural content for educational purposes, but also to support the Digital Agenda for Europe for enhancing digital literacy.

The application is due to be launched in early 2016.

The Dowse Art Museum goes Wikipedia

- December 5, 2014 in Featured, Guest Blog Post, News, Projects

During the next two months, The Dowse Art Museum in New Zealand will be running a new Wikipedia project designed to increase the profile of New Zealand craft artists and history. In this guest blogpost, director Courtney Johnston shares more information on this project and why Wikipedia is so important for museums.

Contemporary research into any topic begins today on the internet. However, when searching for information about New Zealand craft artists – historical and contemporary – online researchers are likely to be met by a gaping hole rather a wealth of information.
I’m delighted to announce that The Dowse Art Museum, with financial support from Ngā Taonga a Hine-te-iwa-iwa A Treasury of New Zealand Craft Resources, is addressing this problem with an innovative Wikipedia project. The core aim of the project is to increase the amount of accurate and up to date information about New Zealand craft artists available online.

In the next two months we are employing two Wikipedia researchers who will research and write entries for approximately 100 New Zealand craft and applied art practitioners. Our Wikipedia researchers will also identify and copyright clear and digitise primary resource material (e.g. book chapters, exhibition catalogues and journal articles) to support the entries.

Visitors at the The Dowse Art Museum. Photographer Mark Tantrum, courtesy of The Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand

Visitors at the The Dowse Art Museum. Photographer Mark Tantrum, courtesy of The Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand

Why Wikipedia?

Since launching in 2001, Wikipedia has become the starting point for almost anyone with an internet connection and a research question. Museums have recognised that Wikipedia is now an important discovery place for their collections, their history, and information about artists they represent.

This recognition comes in many forms. For example, a number of institutions from around the world – from the British Museum to the Palace of Versailles to the Derby Museum and Art Gallery – have hosted a ‘Wikipedian in Residence’ in which a researcher familiar with Wikipedia is hosted by the institution to create entries, release material under open licences, and raise interest in the institution amongst Wikipedia contributors and users.

The Brooklyn Museum is regarded as a world-leader among cultural institutions harnessing the power of Wikipedia’s strong community of writers and editors and vast audience of readers and researchers. For example, in 2010 the Museum opted instead of printing a traditional catalogue to accompany the exhibition Seductive Subversion, curated to bring attention to lesser-known female Pop artists, to invest their energy in writing Wikipedia pages for each artist.

Preliminary research by Museum staff showed that these artists were very under-represented on Wikipedia. They argued “To get the research into the hands of the biggest audience possible, updating Wikipedia made the most sense. After all, more people go there for information than any other source, so why not take the information we have and make a contribution where it will count?”

We have identified that there is a paucity of information about New Zealand craft artists – historical and contemporary – online. A quick Wikipedia search reveals no entries for established artists such as Warwick Freeman, John Edgar, Alan Preston, Emma Camden, Donn Salt, Gordon Crook, or Malcolm Harrison. Others such as Ilse von RandowPatricia PerrinDame Rangimarie Hetet and Ida Mary Lough have ‘stub’ entries – a sentence or two drawn from official sources. These are significant figures in our cultural history and while there is information about all scattered around the web, no central collating point.

One option for improving this lack of information would have been for us to write and add these biographies to The Dowse’s website. However, I see four advantages to using Wikipedia:

  • Wikipedia scores well in Google searches, putting the information in front of people who might not even know about The Dowse (I know, it’s nearly unimaginable, but it does happen)
  • Wikipedia articles can be updated by any interested person. This takes the onus off The Dowse to keep these biographies up to date (a task we’re not resourced for)
  • We hope that people seeing this activity might be inspired to start their own editing and adding of information in Wikipedia
  • We hope to use the information that is ‘kept alive’ on Wikipedia in our own future collection digitisation.

Project objectives

We want to get as much value as possible out of the funding Ngā Taonga a Hine-te-iwa-iwa have generously provided. This is what we’re aiming for with this project:

  • The amount of information about New Zealand craft and applied art practitioners available online is dramatically increased
  • The amount of primary resources about New Zealand craft and applied art available online is increased
  • The researchers for the project develop a wide understanding of the history and current state of New Zealand craft and object art, and connections with artists and museum professionals
  • The researchers develop fluency in working with Wikipedia’s editorial protocols and can pass this expertise on to others
  • The project is openly documented and freely shared, to encourage others to run their own programmes
  • The Dowse’s knowledge about artists represented in our collection is increased.

Who is involved?

The Dowse has partnered with Ngā Taonga a Hine-te-iwa-iwa on this project. Apart from Dowse staff members being involved in the project, we’re reaching out into the New Zealand Wikipedia and international GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) Wikipedia community to provide mentors for our two dedicated Wikipedia researchers. This has also started with them attending a NDF workshop on Wikipedia last week.

An advisory group has been formed to review the list of artists to be profiled and help build understanding of the project and connections with artists and research resources. The advisory group includes representatives from Ngā Taonga a Hine-te-iwa-iwa, Toi Māori, Auckland Museum, Te Papa, and Objectspace.

Digital New Zealand (a collaborative project run by the National Library of New Zealand to support the availability and use of New Zealand digital content, with a special emphasis on culture and heritage) will help us to make digitised material available through their Shared Research Repository.

An open project

We are treating this as an open project, and we plan to blog about the process and share information such as the budget for various aspects of the work transparently. This is being done in hopes that other institutions and sectors could pick up our project as a model and either finance the creation of another group of entries, or use it to profile another group of makers (such as design, photography, music or architecture).

Next steps

This is very much a project under development. We are currently collating basic biographical information and references for about 70 artists, from a long list of nearly 300 names. The first thing we need to nut out is Wikipedia’s standard around “notability” and making sure the entries we put up meet it. This means a lot of research online and through our (luckily quite extensive) collection of craft books, catalogues and serials.

We know we will learn a great deal, and hope to pass it on to all those interested in running or contributing to similar projects. Let us know if you have any questions – you can find more information on the project and post your comments through this extended blogpost on The Dowse Art Museum website.

Open Rubens – the new and improved Rubens Online

- October 14, 2014 in Case Studies, eSpace, Featured, Guest Blog Post

This is a guest blog post about the Open Rubens platform written by Joris Janssens of Packed, one of the partners of the Europeana Space (eSpace) project. Open Rubens won the public prize during the competition 2013. PACKED is a centre of expertise in digital heritage and promotes the use of standards for the creation, preservation and online dissemination of cultural heritage content.

In 2004 the Rubenianum, a centre dedicated to the study of Rubens, developed the Rubens Online website, which holds information on all works by the Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens whiopenrubens1ch have been or are present in Belgian public collections. The website is a product of its time and we could nowadays easily present the collection in some refreshing manner without much effort. Since the Rubens Online dataset was available under an open license ( we used it create some new ways to explore this collection. You can find the result at

You can browse the collection through:

1) Some random images which are loaded from the dataset. If you click on an image you get a detail view of the work.

openrubens22) Since there was geographical information in the data we could show all the works on a map and if a work has been in different locations we can track these movements.

openrubens33) A timeline shows the works in the collection in a chronological order

Timeline using timeline js

Timeline using timeline js

On the detail page we added some social sharing functionality, the possibility to add tags to the images and to add comments.

Most of the images are available in a low resolution: we therefore implemented the functionality to do a Google Image search for similar images, in the hope of finding some higher resolutions. Since the works are public domain, even a larger resolution should not fall under copyright. This however could be different from country to country.


Google Image search with different sizes

In addition to the Rubens Online dataset the detail page of a work shows some results from a search by title using the Europeana API. This however does not always provide nice results: sometimes because their just isn’t any relevant content to show, but also because searching and filtering is a bit limited – which will hopefully improve in a future version of the Europeana API.

Results from Europeana search

Results from Europeana search

Open Rubens was submitted for of the competition 2013, where it won the public price.

New York Cultural Heritage and Open Access Update

- September 12, 2014 in Featured, Guest Blog Post

New York is a center for world-class cultural heritage institutions, a site of innovation in the realm of digital humanities, library, archival, museum technology, and information sharing, not to mention hefty content production.  New York was also home to the first U.S. Wikimedia Chapter, Wikimedia NYC. That’s why it’s not surprising that there is also a wealth of recent Open Access initiatives in the New York Area: in this post you can find a select list.  


Content Donations

New York Public Library (NYPL Labs)In March, 2014 the New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division announced that they were to release over 20,000 high resolution images of cartographic works in their collections as well as crowd sourced transcriptions, that were known to have no U.S. copyright restrictions. The Division released these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (U.N. OCHA) – As part of its activities U.N. OCHA  creates fully up-to-date general reference maps of nations, specifically to facilitate emergency responding. Since Spring 2014, U.N. OCHA and Wikimedia NYC have collaborated to upload approximately 226 coordinates-based maps to Wikimedia Commons and begun adding these maps images to their respective Wikipedia articles.

Józef Piłsudski Institute of America – The Józef Piłsudski Institute of America, a cultural heritage institution grown out of the collection of the Polish Chief of State and WWI military leader, has donated over 1,400 images to Wikimedia Commons. The images include photographs and scans of military documents, letters, and other Polish and Ukrainian governmental documents.

Other – Many New York Institutions have contributed small batches of images to Wikimedia Commons under CC0 licenses, as part of Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons and GLAM projects. These institutions include the Frick Art Reference Library, the Center for Jewish History, and the Queens Borough Public Library.

Francis Samuel Marryat, San Francisco, lithograph.jpg

“Francis Samuel Marryat, San Francisco, lithograph” by Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Open Cultural Data

Linked Jazz – Initiated by the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and funded by the OCLC Research and the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) in 2011, this project aims to link cultural heritage materials in a web of connections using Linked Open Data (LOD) technology. The project includes multiple facets, including an exportable, LOD Linked Jazz API, a network visualization tool, and an interactive, exploratory search function.

Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum – In early 2012, the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum released its object record collection metadata API under a Creative Commons license and through GitHub.



Wikipedia Regional Edit-a-thons – Over 10 collaboratively organized Wikipedia Edit-a-thons in New York have taken place since September, 2013 with many more staff training events and social free culture meetups. These have included: A Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and Photo-hunt with a theme of “Brooklyn History” at Brooklyn Public Library, an Edit-a-thon a #GWWI (Global Women’s Wikipedia Write- In) on Women’s History at Columbia University’s Butler Library, and Edit-a-thons at Public Libraries in Harlem, Westchester, Queens, and Greenwich Village, among other places.

Staff from the Center for Jewish History and its partner Institutions, Leo Baeck Institute, YIVO, American Jewish Historical Society, and American Sephardi Federation, join volunteers to improve Wikipedia pages about women in Jewish History on May 4, 2012. Picture by Dcb766 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Center for Jewish History: Women in Jewish History Edithathon, May 4, 2012. Picture by Dcb766 (Own work), licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

WikiConference USA – The U.S.’s first Wikimedia Conference also took place on May 30 – June 1st at New York Law School, and was hosted by Wikimedia NYC and Wikimedia D.C. and funded by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation and gifts from Consumer Reports, the Institute for Information Law & Policy at New York Law School, and the City University of New York. This event, which drew approximately 250 participants, included a 2-day program of workshops and keynotes and a 1-day unconference.

Wikipedia Education Program – The Wikipedia Education Program in New York has been growing from one class in Fall 2010 to at least 10 courses with a Wikipedia component and Wikipedia Education Program ambassadors in Fall 2014. This semester’s program includes a course on the Economics of Developing Countries at Manhattanville College, a course on Women and Health at Barnard College, a sociology of fashion course at FIT, and a Development Psychology class at Hunter College that is simultaneously being run as a study on the pedagogical effectiveness of Wikipedia. There are also two English courses at LaGuardia Community College focused on Children’s and Young Adult Literature.



Several Wikipedians-in-Residence call New York their home.

  • Lane Raspberry has been a Wikipedian-in-Residence, at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, New York since April 2012.
  • David Goodman has serves as Wikipedian-in-Residence  at New York Public Library of the Performing Arts Music Division.
  • The Józef Piłsudski Institute of America has hosted three University students of Polish History as Wikipedians-in-Residence in the past year: Piotr Puchalski, Łukasz Chełmski, and Adam Granatowski.
  • Dorothy Howard (article author) continues to serve as Wikipedia at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, where she started in August, 2014.


Free Culture Groups

Many formal and informal free culture groups and meetups operate simultaneously in New York. Named here are few of many:

Techno Activism First Mondays is a workshop and discussion-based meetup group. It has hosted recent events including: “Muslims & Surveillance in NYC: The Next Steps,” in June and “LGBTQ Surveillance & Censorship: Understanding the Worldwide Challenges” in July.

The Internet Society of New York organizes projects and events around the themes of privacy and surveillance, internet access, net neutrality, elections, decentralized networks.


Mediahackdays – how to make the most out of a hackathon

- May 13, 2014 in Featured, Guest Blog Post, Hack days

Picture taken by Mads Johansen,

Picture taken by Mads Johansen,

From 2-4 May the MediaHackDays took place in Aarhus, Denmark. The event, organised by the Danish chapter of Hacks/Hackers, aimed to bring together developers and journalists and mix up their combined skills to create innovative solutions. Thorbjørn Wulf was there on behalf of the National Gallery of Denmark and reports on the success of the event, which will inspire the next edition of the Danish HACK4DK event in September 2014.

The MediaHackDays event was in many ways a far more inspiring hackathon than I have had before and it was for a number of reasons:

  • That there was a strong and committed facilitator throughout the weekend, who managed to create a forum where creative ideas could emerge

  • That there was a “movement” behind as organizers (Hacks/Hackers)

  • That there was ongoing media coverage (Danish newspaper “Information” blogged from the event)  which added seriousness to the event

  • That there was a generous sponsor – CCI Europe – that provided the event with a very nice venue, meals, snacks, drinks, music and a lot of gadgets to play with

  • And, most importantly, that the relationship between journalists and developers was 2:1

The fact that there were both journalists and developers was crucial to the success of the event, because in this way developers were facing specific problems and the journalists being the majority ensured that the process was driven by content and not by technology. Therefore the end product was far more useful and not just an exercise for programmers to parse some random data and visualize it with the Javascript library that they just think is cool now.

Picture taken by Mads Johansen,

Picture taken by Mads Johansen,

In my eyes, this proved how a hackathon can help to break down the barrier between technology and content. This barrier is broken because you meet with a common goal of wanting to show how new technology can enrich and transform data. With that objective in mind, a hackathon can actually serve as empowerment of non-technical people with good ideas, so they can stand up to heavy content management systems and enterprise-thinking with words like open APIs, Linked Data and NoSQL databases. And it can also turn them into digital agents when they return from the hackathon, with the experience that developers actually will say ‘yes’ when you come up with a good idea .

Picture taken by Mads Johansen,

Picture taken by Mads Johansen,

The practical experience I want to share from the weekend was with Julie, a journalist and editorial developer of Funen Media. She pitched a problem: a news story can cover hundreds of articles spanning a long period. She needed an easy and navigable visualization – News Navigator – and was frustrated that her own CMS could not do that. So .. who could help her out? I decided to join her team thinking I could contribute with data crunching. We were also joined by a graphic designer and two more journalists. We could have used a frontend developer, but nevertheless we achieved (from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) to go from an open news API (The Guardian has indexed their data with Solr), via our own datastore (MongoDB) through to a visualization based on Timeline.js. Our solution is available on It’s static but with a few more hours it would have been dynamic. But that was really not what is was about. More importantly the process had been very giving for all of us in the team and interestingly enough we received an email from Julie three days later:

“Thank you so much for putting all that hard work into my idea. It was so much fun, and I really learned a lot. I have been talking to our developers and my boss and we will try to do this.”

This proofs – as I see it – that we as cultural institutions can make more of a hackathon than just getting “an outside look at our data, and the opportunities they offer that we as agents and institutions that can reflect or build on afterwards”. Julie was given the opportunity to control technology in terms of content, thus providing technology with direction and intentionality. I was on the other hand given a use case for a specific piece of technology that I find interesting – a NoSQL database – and through this kind of joint effort the exercise ended up as a concrete usable product – albeit a static one. But most importantly thanks to the experience she had during the hackathon she could go home and challenge company-technology and hardcore technologists in such a way that her problem might be solved – and even if it in the end turns out not to be solved – she was taken seriously!

In this way, we can achieve more than just getting free labour to test our software. Just imagine Kasper Monrad turns up and asks for a visualization of the Golden Age or an art-guide asks for a simple yet complex and responsive Art Navigator to bring in the exhibition – then we will really get to walk the frontiers of our data.


On 26-27 September we will be organising another edition of HACK4DK – Hack your heritage, an annual hackathon on cultural heritage organized by major heritage institutions in Denmark. The set up of this hackathon will hopefully be inspired by the successful mediahackdays event, so that we can make the most out of bringing people with different skills together.

Europeana Fashion Edit-a-thon handbook for GLAMs

- April 22, 2014 in Featured, Guest Blog Post

This is a guest blog post written by Gregory Markus from the Europeana Fashion project, which works on providing digital objects related to the history of European fashion (ranging from historical dresses to accessories, photographs, posters, drawings, sketches, videos and fashion catalogues) to Europeana.

In an effort to improve fashion knowledge online, Europeana Fashion is eur_fashion_slideweborganising a series of “edit-a-thons” with Wikimedia, during which fashion enthusiasts and professionals get together to improve fashion knowledge on Wikipedia. In order to help other GLAM organisations also set up an edit-a-thon, we have created the Europeana Fashion Edit-a-thon Handbook.

Fashion is undoubtedly a significant cultural medium. Whether we realise it or not, the clothes we choose to wear every day have historical roots and contemporary meaning. The blue jeans, the T-shirt, the sneaker or a shirt with a button down collar all have an interesting history, which most of us seldom consider. If someone did want to learn about fashion history, their first stop would most likely be Wikipedia. As fashion is underrepresented on the online encyclopedia, however, they might be let down.

Europeana Fashion brings together 22 institutions from 12 European countries, which open up their collections and make their content available online; some for the first time ever. Coordinating between GLAMs and Wikimedia is an important aspect of Europeana Fashion’s work. Wikipedia Edit-a-thons are a perfect entry point for GLAMs who have never before worked with the online encyclopedia, because they

  1. Connect different communities and bring them together around a shared passion;
  2. Stimulate participating partners to reflect on the ways they make their collections available.


The Europeana Fashion Edit-a-thon Handbook is the perfect companion for any GLAM looking to organise an Edit-a-thon (not just fashion institutions). The handbook gives an overview of Wikimedia, Wikipedia, ways to ensure a successful Edit-a-thon, how to measure success, tips for getting content on Wikimedia, event promotion, as well as a suggested day programme, a three month preparation agenda, and an abundance of relevant links.

It is also becoming more common for prestigious schools and institutions to hire a Wikipedian Residence. As this trend continues we will hopefully see more Edit-a-thons occur. Opening up and sharing knowledge is essential for societal progression, which is why at the end of the handbook we ask users to contribute their experiences. In this way others can see who is using the Handbook, what they learned and how they benefited from an Edit-a-thon.

Case Study: Remixing Openly Licensed Content in the Public Space

- July 8, 2013 in Case Studies, Featured, Guest Blog Post

This post is written by Merete Sanderhoff, who works at the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK), the National Gallery of Denmark, as researcher and project manager, leading a number of projects providing open access to the museum’s digitized collections, and using digital media to freely share knowledge and resources with fellow institutions as well as users. She is also a member of the OpenGLAM Advisory Board

In 2012, the Statens Museum fur Kunst (SMK) in Copenhagen decided to make a small batch of 160 high quality digital images of their public domain collection openly available on the web. The museum’s choice of open licenses is driven by a strong wish to encourage sharing and creative and innovative reuse of our digitized collections. Pilot projects have taught us that the need for openly licensed images and cultural heritage data is growing – not only among fellow institutions, but in the educational sector, Wikipedia, and on social media platforms in general – and likewise, that the willingness to share high quality images and data in the Danish museum community is growing.

The art pilots at work. Click for more images

In order to move from good intentions to concrete action, SMK has started a couple of initiatives to encourage museums to share their digitized collections, and the public to put them into use in new interactive ways. One of our recent initiatives is HintMe – a shared mobile museum platform – described at length in this case study on the Europeana Pro blog.

Here I will talk about a more recent initiative: Remix art on the Copenhagen metro fences.

The Copenhagen Metro is being expanded, predictably causing frustration for the people living next to the construction sites. As a positive countermove, the Copenhagen Metro Company works very creatively with decorating the metro fences, often in partnership with local communities. SMK has entered such a partnership, using our charter collection of open images as the raw material.

This partnership has allowed SMK to explore several aspects of being an OpenGLAM institution (according to the OpenGLAM principles):

  • To bring our collections to the public
  • To collaborate with external communities of users
  • To provide the framework and resources, and then step back and see what people do with the digitized artworks
  • To let go of control over how our collections are perceived, used, and create meaning and value to people

In our partnership with the Copenhagen Metro Company, SMK is represented by Young People’s Laboratories for Art (ULK) – a community of young “art pilots” who meet at SMK once a week to do volunteer work on creative projects. So far, they have mostly worked peer-to-peer with other young people, for instance at Roskilde Festival. As I mentioned in my talk at Open Culture in London July 2nd the Metro project has offered them a new set of challenges. Collaborating with all kinds of locals living by the metro fences – families with kids, elderly people etc. – they have run into highly diverse perceptions of art and what is permissible to do with the artworks.

To the art pilots, so-called ‘digital natives‘, it’s a natural and deeply rooted thing to remix the digitized artworks, do mashups, collages and Photoshop manipulations, in a seemless blend of “high and low” culture. To some of the locals around the construction sites, especially those of older generations, this approach to art seemed at first almost like an assault to the original artworks. This resulted in a lot of very productive discussions and negotiations between the art pilots and the locals who participated in project meetings and workshops.

To SMK it has been interesting to discover that our own efforts to let go of control over our digitized artworks that are in the Public Domain – and therefore may be used by the public without restrictions – can offend the art perception of some users. Paradoxically, in this case it is not so much the museum, but the users, who worry about misuse and vandalism towards the artworks’ integrity when they are shared openly with the public. As such, the Metro project is a learning process for SMK where we reap new knowledge about how the public may wish to share and reuse digitized cultural heritage, and how they create new value for themselves and each other in the process. Opening up our digitized collections is all about letting go of the monopoly to define what art is and can be used for.

Here and here, more photos can be found of the two metro fence revamps we have contributed to.

Our initiatives with open images are inspired by the ideas behind Shelley Bernstein’s crowd-curated exhibitions at Brooklyn Museum, and by design principles in Nina Simon’s book The Participatory Museum (2010), among others.

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

- 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.