OpenGLAM Principles


Note: This is the fourth version of the OpenGLAM principles which we have drafted together with the OpenGLAM Working Group. We would like this to be a community effort so please give feedback on the OpenGLAM mailing list!

Galleries, libraries, archives and museums have a fundamental role in supporting the advance of humanity’s knowledge. They are the custodians of our cultural heritage and in their collections they hold the record of humankind.

The internet presents cultural heritage institutions with an unprecedented opportunity to engage global audiences and make their collections more discoverable and connected than ever, allowing users not only to enjoy the riches of the world’s memory institutions, but also to contribute, participate and share.

We believe that cultural institutions that take steps to open up their collections and metadata stand to benefit from these opportunities.

When we say that digital content or data is “open” we mean that it complies with the Open Definition, which can be summed up in the statement that:

“A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to give credit to the author and/or making any resulting work available under the same terms as the original work.”

The first step to make a collection open is to apply an open license, but that is where the story begins. Openness to collaboration and to novel forms of user engagement are essential if cultural heritage institutions are to realise the full potential of the internet for access, innovation and digital scholarship.

An OpenGLAM institution champions these principles:

1. Release digital information about the artefacts (metadata) into the public domain using an appropriate legal tool such as the Creative Commons Zero Waiver.
  • This promotes the maximum possible reuse of the data and allows your resources to become more discoverable whilst also ensuring compliance with major cultural data aggregators such as Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America.

For exemplary open metadata licensing policies see:

2. Keep digital representations of works for which copyright has expired (public domain) in the public domain by not adding new rights to them.
  • Digital copies and representations of works in which copyright has expired (public domain works) should be explicitly marked using an appropriate legal tool such as the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark. This promotes the maximum possible reuse of the content.

For exemplary open content licensing policies see:

For more detailed documents and charters on the importance of the digital public domain see:

3. When publishing data make an explicit and robust statement of your wishes and expectations with respect to reuse and repurposing of the descriptions, the whole data collection, and subsets of the collection.

For exemplary statements see:

4. When publishing data use open file formats which are machine-readable.
  • Formats that are machine readable are ones which are able to have their data extracted by computer programs.
  • If information is released in a closed file format, this can cause significant obstacles to reusing the information encoded in it, forcing those who wish to use the information to buy the necessary software.
  • The structure and possible uses of the data should be well documented, for example in a datablog or webpage.

For more information on open file formats, have a look at the Open Data Handbook.

5. Opportunities to engage audiences in novel ways on the web should be pursued.
  • Clearly document the open data, content and services you provide so that others can easily re-use, build and improve on what you’ve made available.
  • When publishing data, be willing to answer questions from interested parties about the data and support them in getting the most out of your data.
  • Give opportunities for your audiences to curate and collect items from your collections. The Rijksmuseum’s Rijksstudio is a great example of this kind of engagement.
  • Where possible consider allowing your users to enrich and improve your metadata by leveraging crowdsourcing applications.