Open Culture 2010

Open Culture 2010” conference has finished, long live the Open Culture conference.


Last week at the Westergasfabriek park in Amsterdam – a brilliantly converted industrial estate-come-cultural precinct – Europeana hosted their annual event to show what they are planning to do with the aggregated collections of the European GLAM sector. As it grows, Europeana will become possibly the most important force in Europe for advocating for a free-culture future, not merely because they have a great collection of partners and they grok the Public Domain but because they have the political backing of the European Commission to promote digital access.

As mentioned last week, I was invited to work with Europeana for two weeks for two reasons: to be the opening keynote for the Open Culture conference and to produce a report of things that the Wikimedia community and Europeana could potentially do together.

List of collaboration projects
Despite the fact that Europeana does not itself own any of the content or metadata there are indeed a lot of things we can do together. I’m pleased to announce that this is the shortlist. These are not promises per se from Europeana but are things that we think are achievable – technically, financially, politically.

Short term:
– Embed Wikipedia text into Europeana search results to improve contextualisation (example)
– Investigate translating the Europeana website via the system (description)
– Europeana to invite Wikimedians to their public events across Europe to make GLAM contacts
– Europeana presence at forthcoming GLAM-WIKI conferences (London, Paris)

Longer term:
– Mass upload Europeana provider’s content to Wikimedia Commons (licensing permitting)
– Creating a Europeana-ID + URL redirect service so people (not only Wikimedians) can easily use to reference collection items all across Europe. Add a Wikipedia citation template and you’ve got a powerful and easy to use system for Wikipedia to reference to European cultural objects
– Use Wikipedia’s inter-language links links to improve Europeana’s search language resolver
– Investigate if any of Europeana’s open source code could be useful for MediaWiki

The reason for my having been invited was on the basis of the British Museum residency project, and so that was what I first described. However, as a representative of the Wikimedia community, I was also asked to explain our strict stance against non-commercial and non-derivative licensing. Europeana is pushing its partners to go the same direction so they wanted to see some of the interesting re-use cases that Wikipedia has demonstrated. Here are the slides (takes a while to load).

What seemed to be the most retweeted sentences from that presentation were:

1) “Unexpected risks are accounted for, unexpected rewards are discounted.”

This is why new ideas are always hard to get accepted in any organisation. It’s much easier to identify things that currently work that will break when things change but not easy to foresee the new things that might arise to replace them. The Wikiverse is no exception to this as anyone who’s watched the debate about flagged/pending revisions will know.

2) “If digital content is not [legally and technically] interoperable, it’s not findable. If it’s not findable, it’s….”

Insert your preferred adjective for hidden and unusable cultural heritage here.

tweet1 By “legally and technically” I mean both a free-culture approved license to be permitted to use the content and also a format based on linked data so it can be re-used in practice. Without both you have a “haute couture business model” where the value is derived not necessarily from the quality of the content but from its scarcity. Enforcing scarcity of access to cultural content is an easy decision to make for a GLAM sector organisation (see previous paragraph about unexpected risks) but that way leads to decreased relevance and ultimately decreased funding.

p.s. Mia Ridge, from the London Science Museum has already posted a good summary of my, and other, sessions at the conference here. Hay Kranen from WM-NL made notes from the presentation on GitHub here.

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