A meeting of cultural and ministerial minds in Madrid: 2nd Europeana National Workshop

Author: Roxanne Peters

Working with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, Europeana facilitated its second national workshop at The Biblioteca Nacional de España on 18 January. A cross-team effort, this workshop marked Joris Pekel’s last opportunity to ‘transform the world with culture’ in a Europeana capacity and charted Pablo Uceda Gómez’s success as a multi-talented facilitator, translator and tour guide all rolled into one! Representatives from the Ministry together with organisations including the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Patrimonio Nacional, the Museo Arqueologico Nacional and Platoniq met to exchange their experiences of Spanish institutions’ approach to the management and sharing of their digital heritage.

Local lessons for open data and re-use

After an introduction by Europeana on the value of using the publishing framework to help inform institutional strategy, Javier Espadas, Chief Technology Officer at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (a private collection of iconic artworks), started the session with a great overview of their approach for opening data and encouraging re-use. He traced the development of their online digital presence since 1998. Outlining the organisation’s business model, Javier reaffirmed the benefits of opening data as well as balancing commercial interests.

Paving the way for Poland following changes to the copyright law post Communist rule, Mikołaj Machowski, Deputy Manager of the Visual Documentation Department at The National Museum in Warsaw, also shared insights into their commitment to reach audiences on digital platforms. The institution participated in the PartagePlus project showcasing their Art Nouveau collections, and collaborated on a Wikipedia GLAM project in 2015 . Both projects have greatly increased the visibility of the collections.

Identifying challenges and opportunities

Following these examples, an engaging session fuelled healthy debate! In the company of IPR specialists, discussion points included the fear of losing control and attribution when publishing online and the problems faced in interpreting complex copyright law. However people agreed that publishing online can increase visibility and reinforce the value of cataloguing good quality data, and also enables institutions to learn more about the audience behaviour, which can help to reach new users.

Encouraging a collective move towards openness

Our recently elected councillor Dr Antje Schmidt, Head of Digital Cataloguing and Collection Online at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (MKG), kicked off the afternoon session. Quoting founder Rudolf Dührkoop, she highlighted that ‘we are custodians rather than owners of the collections’, and explained the MKG’s transition to an open collections policy. She reinforced the principles of Europeana’s public domain charter together with international business models of openness and the impact these have on society. Since the MKG made public domain works available to download without any registration, there have been more than 28,000 downloads (including more than 7,600 direct downloads, sharing and access via metadata). She encouraged a collective move towards openness, inviting participants to Hamburg to start a conversation at the second Sharing is Caring event.

Connecting with new audiences

This led participants to further discuss ways of connecting with audiences. Museums recognised tourists as their main visitors, acknowledging that young audiences are stimulated by ways to engage digitally and quickly lose interest if they can’t reuse the content. A debate focused on ways of targeting new audiences. One recurring message was the importance of storytelling - how to connect, engage, share and inspire others with creative narratives based on the collections and archives made visible.

What is next?

Participants wrapped up the session by sharing their main learnings from the workshop. They agreed on the advantages of bringing communities together, and to openly discuss current debates and decision making when it comes to opening collections at a national level. It is clear that some data partners need more support with the ingestion process, and that nuances encountered in sharing collections from different domains need to be recognised. There is still apprehension about ‘losing control’ when publishing collections online. Here, Europeana can provide tools and frameworks to help institutions adopt an approach that best works for them, and reinforce the value of the Network as an active hub of shared expertise, interests and best practice.