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Opening up Museums and the Web

Museums and the Web is a conference that showcases and discusses digital evolutions in the museum world. People exploring art with iPads, going on sound walks outside and inside the museum buildings or interacting with websites as a new exhibition space are some of the topics that are explored annually in an international four-day meeting.

Sound and Vision's Research and Development department works on making audiovisual content open and available. For this year's conference, we sent in a paper on Open Culture Data. This grassroots movement started at the end of 2011, with the aim to open up data in the cultural sector and to stimulate (creative) reuse. The paper, which explains how the initiative came into being and explores what its impact could be for the world of galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs), has been selected to be published in the prestigious Museums and the Web proceedings.

The paper sums up the activities organised by the Open Culture Data initiative and the preliminary results it bears:

we organised a hackathon, which resulted in the creation of 13 Open Culture Data apps. After this successful first half year, a solid network of cultural heritage professionals, copyright and open data experts and developers was formed. In April 2012, an Open Culture Data masterclass started, in which 17 institutions got practical, technical and legal advice on how to open their data for re-use. Furthermore, we organised an app competition and three hackathons, in which developers were stimulated to re-use Open Cultural Datasets in new and innovative ways. These activities resulted in 27 more apps and 34 open datasets. 

The paper shares the lessons we learned to inform heritage institutions with real-life experiences, best practices and guidelines to open up data and the ways in which these data can be reused. The importance of opening up our data as institutions has been supported by European commissioner Neelie Kroes, who in 2011 made the following call to action:

I urge cultural institutions to open up control of their data…there is a wonderful opportunity to show how cultural material can contribute to innovation, how it can become a driver of new developments. Museums, archives and libraries should not miss it.

The paper sums up the lessons we learned as follows:

  1. Innovators lead the way.
  2. Create practical examples.
  3. Employ a multidisciplinary perspective.

These lessons are currently taken up by colleagues in the international domain: Belgium recently opened a 'chapter' to engage the Dutch-speaking cultural heritage domain of the importance of opening up your data - and it is our hope that many others will follow suit.

Read the back-story on these lessons and more in the full paper on Open Culture Data, which is freely available online at:

Image: Open Culture Timeline (CC BY-SA by Lotte Belice Baltussen)

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Image remixed from Stuart Seeger's Sunburst On The Hawthorne Bridge (CC BY 2.0).