Europeana: the Meta-GLAM

For the next two weeks I’m here at Europeana in Den Haag/The Hague working out of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) – the National Library of the Netherlands – and I need your advice. I want to know any ideas you have for how Wikimedia and Europeana can work together.

I arrived here yesterday (meeting up with GerardM on the way) having been invited for two reasons:

  1. To keynote their conference next week in Amsterdam. Specifically this will be about my British Museum project but more broadly it will be about why letting go of control of cultural heritage is A Good Thing™. I’m very honoured to have this role, especially since the other keynote speaker is head of technical-shinanigans at Google Books.
  2. Coming up with ways that Wikimedia and Europeana can collaborate. I’m spending the next two weeks focusing on this. Delivering a range of proposals to Europeana and also bringing greater awareness of what they can offer to the Wiki-verse.

Europeana is an EU funded project to be, in effect, a Meta-GLAM. Whilst they do not themselves own a collection of objects their task is to help coordinate Europe’s GLAM sector to make that cultural material more accessible. They do this by aggregating the metadata of digitised objects from their uber-impressive list of partners. Currently, they are most well known for their search portal but this is only the beginning. As you can see on their “about us” page:

[The project’s task is to]…report on the further research and implementation needed to make Europe’s cultural heritage fully interoperable and accessible through a truly multilingual service.

Anyone familiar with the Wikimedia mission statement will notice how much the two have in common. Not only that, but Europeana GETS the kind of principles that Wikimedians are always going on about. For example take a look at their Public Domain Charter. They also don’t suffer from what I call “Portal envy” whereby an organisations refuses to work on projects that are not wholly confined within their own portal for branding purposes.

One of the other ways they’re testing of getting cultural information out is to curate digital exhibitions. Check out the current exhibition on Art Neauveau!

So – here’s the question: What, in your opinion, are some things that Europeana and Wikipedia can do together?

The main point of difference with any other GLAM-WIKI relationship in this case is that Europeana doesn’t itself control any of the original objects, on the other hand, they have a unique pan-European access and data consistency. Please contact me with any ideas, leave them as comments or tweet me. Direct any carrier pigeons c/o the KB.

Some potential ideas that come to mind immediately are:

  • Using the API to add snippets of Wikipedia to Europeana search results (like the way the National Library of Australia does it)
  • Using a Wikimedia Commons bot to import consistent metadata from Europeana to attach things like creator templates or other template boxes
  • Using Europeana’s simple and persistent links + a citation template to provide a URL-redirecting service. This makes would make it easy for Wikipedians writing articles about about cultural objects to discover and link to the object reference in the online catalogue of the GLAM that owns the object.
  • Work with the relevant Wikiproject when curating a new digital exhibition to write and share texts, footnotes, translations and multimedia.
  • Provide a relationship brokering service between the European Wikimedia Chapters and their local GLAMs to help fulfill the mutual mission of sharing cultural heritage.

Anything else?

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11 Responses to Europeana: the Meta-GLAM

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Europeana: the Meta-GLAM | Witty’s Blog --

  2. Kippelboy says:

    Hi Witty, here you have some draft ideas:

    * Creating a filter in europeana where you can search not only by title, creator date & subjecte but also by copyright terms (public domain, cc-by-sa,…) This way we could make a Wikimedia Commons bot to better import files & metadata.

    * Taking advantage of interwikis and different europeana languages to create trackback links when possible.

    * Creating a Europeana’s community space for Wikimedians

    I really like the point of providing a relationship brokering service between the European Wikimedia Chapters and their local GLAMs to help fulfill the mutual mission of sharing cultural heritage. One of the hardest things we find when visiting a GLAM institution is how to find the correct speaker. We’ve lost great collaboration oportunities because of this.

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      Thanks for your suggestions 🙂
      I believe that “search by license” will become a standard feature of the Europeana advanced search options in the near future – once the license metadata is more consistent and not based on free-text.
      As for using the interwikis – yes! Especially since Europeana has to be available in all the languages of the EU so our interwikis could be used to help them check keywords when people are searching.

      Could you describe more what you mean by “community space for wikimedians”?

      • Kippelboy says:

        Hi Witty,

        Europeana has one section called Europeana Communities (,it’s a good idea but i think it’s still more like a link directory than a community itself.

        As you say, we’re both looking for the same objectives, making cultural material more accessible, so we could create one europeana community of wikimedians, where, once you’ve registered at europeana, you can identify yourself also as a wikipedian.

        Also, in our wikipedia userpage, we could identify us as europeana-local-hubs, or something similar.

        This should be a way for europeana to start promoting local-focused projects with wikipedian volunteers, like encouraging contact local institutions to free content. We all would win something.

        One of our biggest obstacles is that many institutions still lack awareness of what it means to share their material, but i think it’s just because they do not know the potential of sharing it, neither the benefits they will get.

        We both (Europeana & Wikimedians) have a lot of work to do explaining the goods of doing it, so we could do it together.
        What do you think?

  3. Pingback: Quand les institutions culturelles découvrent Wikimédia et les wikimédiens… « Archives masala

  4. Hi Liam,

    * Stable convenient permalinks for items at Europeana
    * Since search at Europeana is often times frustrating (e.g., let us find a way to create lists to of items of Europeana on specific entities, for example a particular John Smith so that Links from Wikipedia to Europeana would start making sense.

  5. Theo says:

    Hey Liam, How about a common database/repository for the two to use going forward, where images of artwork could be cross-linked between them. Also, how about retrieving blurbs/info from Wikipedia about relevant searches on Eurepeana.

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      Hey Theo,
      Regarding a “common database” if you mean that Wikipedia would be hotlinking images from Europeana then I do not believe that should happen. However if you mean a system of cross-referencing where images in Wikimedia commmons say “see this image in Europeana” and vice versa – then that’s definitely a good idea. I think that would be easiest if/when we can work out a way to automatically have images transferred when they are added to Europeana.

      As for adding snippets from Wikipedia articles to Europeana search results to give them some more context – that is already in their plans 🙂

      • Theo says:

        Ya I meant cross-referencing images between commons and Europeana.

      • Liam Wyatt says:

        Yes, once (if) they start adding images directly to Commons then it would be trivial to provide links back and forth between Commons and Europeana. The first step is to get them automatically uploaded to Commons in the first place. This requires a couple of things – most notably consistent metadata about licensing (which is now coming, thanks to the PD Mark – see my blogpost from today).

  6. Karaca says:

    @Mathias Schindler, @Liam,

    Europeana uses already URNs for unique and persistent identification of “things”.
    (Please see the RFC
    and the other RFCs linked there)

    So the only work to be done is:
    Europeana and WikiMedia should start using URNs for *all* their content. After that, deciding which “John Smith” this one is, would be obvious.

    Kind Regards

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