Monday, November 26, 2012

DCH-RP Digital Cultural Heritage Roadmap for Preservation

For a few weeks ago, I participated at the 4th International Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Cultural Heritage - EUROMED 2012 in Limassol, Cyprus. The conference was a large multidisciplinary event focusing on research related to digital cultural heritage and new technologies. At the conference, I participated at the session about e-Infrastructure Programmes, where four different projects about digital infrastructures were presented.

The title of my presentation was “Cultural institutions and the e-infrastructures: DC-Net, Indicate, DCH-RP projects” and was about the overall vision of the common data infrastructure for digital cultural heritage by presenting the background picture with the two inter-related projects that were carried out, funded by the European Commission under the FP7: DC-NET, (Digital Cultural Heritage Network) and INDICATE(International Network for a Digital Cultural Heritage e-Infrastructure) that were the basis for the DCH-RP project. Research infrastructures play today an important role for digital cultural heritage as a potential channel for the delivery of advanced services to the digital cultural heritage. 

DCH-RP (Digital Cultural Heritage Roadmap for Preservation) project is a coordination action supported by EC FP7 e-Infrastructures Programme. The project aims to produce and validate a "Roadmap for Preservation," which describes how to preserve the digital heritage through an integrated e-infrastructure. Roadmap will be validated through the "proofs of concept", where cultural heritage institutions will experiment with e-infrastructure services, in collaboration with e-infrastructure providers. Practical tools for decision-makers will also be developed.

The project started on 1 October 2012 and will run for 24 months.

More information is available on the project website.

Sanja Halling, Digisam

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Europeana opens up digital cultural metadata for re-use!

Carl Curman, 1900, Swedish National Heritage Board

Europeana opens up over 20 million digital metadata for free re-use with CCO licenses (Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain Dedication). This is an important step towards open access to data. The descriptive data about European digital cultural heritage is now accessible for educational and creative purposes, developing of apps, new web services, etc.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Welcome to the English version of our blog! This is an abbreviation of the Swedish version where we would like to share some of our blog posts relevant for our international visitors.

Workshop in Stockholm: “European Cultural Heritage online. Aggregation and semantic web”

Photograph: Caspar Almelander

On the 23rd of May 2012 the EU funded project Linked Heritage and Digisam (the Swedish national coordination secretariat for digitisation of cultural heritage) at the Swedish National Archives have organised a workshop in Stockholm on two main themes: ”Cultural Heritage Aggregation in Europe” and ”Semantic web”. Audiences were the Linked Heritage project consortium and professionals from the cultural heritage institutions in Sweden. 

The workshop started with a welcome message from Börje Justrell, director of the ICT Departement at The National Archives (Swedish partner in the Linked Heritage project) who also made a brief presentation of the project and it’s main objectives - aggregating content to Europeana and coordinating standards and technologies for the enrichment of Europeana.

Breandán Knowlton, programme manager at Europeana Foundation, presented Europeana project, initiative of the European Commission, mostly known today as a continuously growing online access point for millions of digital items (photos, books, paintings, films, archival records, etc) from the cultural heritage institutions from all over Europe. Breandán highlighted also the importance of publishing digital files as Linked Open Data, which means files are licensed for free use and easily accessible, usable and re-usable.

After this Rolf Källman, director of Digisam presented the secretariat and our work with coordination of digitisation, access and preservation of digital cultural heritage in Sweden.

Christophe Dessaux from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication presented the aggregation of digital cultural heritage data to Europeana, demonstrated by examples from various European projects, followed by more detailed presentations of some of the projects, in particular Linked Heritage project. Henrik Summanen, National Heritage Board presented SOCH (Swedish Open Cultural Heritage) and Peder Andrén from the National Archives presented EU-funded project APE-net (Archives Portal Europe). Main topics were the use of the standards and possible options in developing the aggregation process. Focus was particularly on LIDO-standard, which was presented by Regine Stein from the German Documentation Center for Art History.

The second theme was dealing with how cultural information is presented on the web portals today and what possibilities there are for optimising search options. The potential in semantic web, through the use of linked open data was presented by Gordon McKenna from CollectionsTrust.

Marie-Véronique Leroi, French Ministry of Culture and Communication, presented terminologies and multilingualism for digital cultural heritage were specially highlighted as well as collaboration with Wikipedia and their role as a forthcoming actor in this field. Jakob Hammarbäck made a presentation of Wikimedia Sweden.

All the presentations from the workshop are available at the Linked Heritage website.

Workshop was also followed by an additional workshop on virtual exhibitions, organised by MICHAEL Culture Foundation working group on innovative services, presenting some best practices examples and innovative projects on virtual exhibitions. See here for more information:

Questions and Answers

Building labourer on a stone being hoisted up to building, Pitt St, Sydney, c. 1930s, by Sam Hood

No known copyright restrictions.

Currently we are going through and updating the currently existing recommendations on digitisation, regarding among other things the planning of digitisation projects, the digitisation processes, standards, formats, equipment, and much more. In the "FAQ" (see link here or in the right column) we discuss the most often used recommendations and reports on digitisation. We begin on a smaller scale, and plan to gradually build up a more extensive "virtual guide" for digitisation work (in Swedish).

Welcome to contribute with your own questions and problems and to follow our work!


Digital preservation as a requirement for the use of the digital cultural heritage of today and tomorrow

 Computer Catalog : Consolidated/Convair Aircraft Factory San Diego Equipment, San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, 1950s, No known copyright restrictions.

Discussing digitisation of the cultural heritage is often very complicated. There are many and various debates regarding digitisation processes and digital access, often concerning difficulties caused by different types of material in different cultural heritage institutions. However, when talking about digital preservation there is an overall agreement about the importance of it. In the responses received from departments and agencies which served as a basis for a work process preceding the national strategy for digitisation, digital access and digital preservation established by the Swedish Government in 2011, there was an overall agreement on the necessity of a coordinated solution for long-term digital preservation for the cultural heritage sector.

We in Digisam are now considering what is needed in order to create coordinated preservation solutions. As a first step we arranged a seminar about digital preservation together with professionals from the National Archives.  We examined the way in which National Archives deal with digital preservation today, something they started with already in the 1970s when the first digital deliveries of archive material from government agencies begun.

The first issue to address is what digital preservation actually is. Usually, in the cultural heritage sector, we talk about ​​digital long-term preservation. But behind this term there is a whole variety of concepts and choices. Sometimes we also talk about short and medium term digital preservation solutions.

There are several different definitions of long-term digital preservation, often depending on the context. The LDP Centre (Centre for long-term digital preservation) website contains the following definition (originally in Swedish): which I think sums up the complexity in a good way: "Long-term preservation: A time period that is longer than the lifetime of the system (hardware and software). Preserving with a thought of "the next generations." Nowadays the average lifespan of digital systems is considered to be between three to seven years."

The LDP-center definition points out the essential question – that digital content managent should be done in the same strategic way as the preservation of analog information. In Swedish archival context, there is no upper time limit for the public documents that the public administration shall keep, which means that the freedom of information legislation  is not time limited. Much of the problem is that software and hardware only have a lifespan of a few years because of the fast development of technology. This means that you constantly need to migrate the digital information to ensure that it can be preserved for the future.

To handle the information in the future you also need to have comprehensible technical metadata of various kinds, not only in regard to the content itself but also metadata describing the structure and context. The archives sector often use conceptual models as the OAIS model, where the "archive packages" of metadata describes how the information should be read and also how the technological environment in which the information was created looked like. In recent years, several EU projects played an important role for working with digital preservation, including CASPAR, PLANETS, etc. The National Archives has also participated in the work on digital preservation in various European contexts, for example as a coordinator of PROTAGE, a research project that was about the application of agent technology in digital preservation.

EU project DC-Net has published a study on services for digital preservation: "Digital preservation services: state of the art analysis" which is available as a pdf from the project website. The report is based on the analysis that provides an overview of 190 available tools and services that support digital preservation. DC-Net project has also published "Service Priorities and best practices for digital cultural heritage", which also can be downloaded as a pdf file from the project website. It points on the long-term digital preservation as the most important priority.

In our dialogue with representatives of cultural heritage institutions, several expressed a desire to investigate whether a centrally managed cloud solution could be an option. It is almost certainly more cost-and resource-efficient, as opposite to all institutions investing resources in expertise, staff and building their own technological solutions. But to make it possible, it is extremely important to define the needs for preservation at different institutions in order to select the most suitable preservation solution. All digital information is not to be preserved "forever" but the preservation aspect is crucial even before the digitisation process starts. We have just begun our work with this complex issue and will write continuously as our work progresses. Do you work with digital preservation in the cultural heritage sector? Please send us your feedback!

Can Creative Commons strengthen the cultural heritage sector?

Foto: Thomas Hawk (CC:BY:NC)


Digisam, Creative Commons and the foundation .SE organised a seminar in June 2012 about the practical use of Creative Commons. We discussed dissemination of cultural heritage on the Internet and how Creative Commons can strengthen the work at the museums, archives and libraries and engage the visitors.

The purpose was to inspire and to share some practical tips and ideas on how to engage visitors more in exhibitions and other cultural events. Invited speakers were showing examples of how Creative Commons can be used as a tool to engage visitors in exhibitions and other collection efforts. Chiaki Hayashi from Creative Commons in Japan talked about the work with Creative Commons as a tool to encourage commitment and innovation. Lennart Guldbrandsson from Wikimedia Sweden discussed the work with a White Paper for the ALM-sector, with the aim to protect copyright and make it easier for people to get access to the cultural heritage. Maarten Zeinstra (Europeana / Knowledge Land) showed Europeana's structure of rights management and exchange of materials between cultural institutions in Europe and Johanna Berg talked about Digisams work with those issues and highlighted the importance of starting with the easiest material to create information with maximum usability potential.

The seminar was jointly organised by Creative Commons. SE and Digisam and can be seen on (in Swedish).

Go fishing!

State Library & Archives of Florida, USA

Sometimes you accidentally stumble over ideas that are so simple and good that you hardly know how come that they have not occurred to you before. The Australian Twitter Game Collection Fishing is such an idea, and here is how it works:

Every Monday someone - anyone really - chooses a new theme for this week's fishing. It can be anything, for example “Red”, “Hat” or “Fairy-tale creatures” have been used, as well as topics related to some current events, like the Queen's Jubilee. The general rule is that there are no rules.

Then you go fishing, in your own collections or anyone elses, for images matching the theme. You make a brief descriptions of the images that you have found and tweet them with the hashtag #collection fishing . It also means that anyone can join this game, not only people working in ALM institutions (Archives, Libraries, Museums). You do not need to link to the collection database,you can also make links to Flickr or some other image uploading service as well. All you need is a Twitter account, and the whole world is welcome to participate.

Why is it so good then?

Museums, archives and libraries in e g Australia, The Netherlands and New Zealand are joining the fishing game because they think that #collectionfishing is:
  • a good way to make their collections more visible. Kate Chmiel from Museum Victoria says, " For us museums, it's about making our collections more accessible by putting them online. Obviously we can not put everything on display, and we can not let everyone Into our stores, so it's the next best thing ." 
  • a good way to exploit the potential of social media to create awareness for the collection content. It is also a way of using Twitter for something useful, and small and flexible format of collectionfinshing is actually an advantage. You decide when you have time to participate and can make your contribution at any time.
  • a chance / reason / excuse for people who like (their) collections that, for once, dig a little deeper into what they contain. It feels good to show off the cool stuff that are in there and let others enjoy it.
  • ability to communicate with colleagues at other institutions. Often even those who do not participate in the collectionfishing leave valuable feedback and comments on published pictures. And it is worthwhile to talk to people outside your own workplace, establish new contacts, and compete in a friendly way for who finds the best, prettiest, ugliest and craziest picture.
  But above all it is fun. Anyone who wants to join?

Johanna Berg, Digisam

Linked Open Data

Already during our first seminar about Semantic Web and Linked Open Data organised by Digisam, it stood clear that there is a lot about these concepts that needs to be clarified. What is really needed for making digital cultural heritage information open and a part of semantic web? Today there are few practical examples of linked open data but instead a lot of questions, discussions and visions.

Digitisation has, until now, been focused on reaching a critical mass of information on the Internet and building content-rich portals and thematic applications that attract users' interest. Today, when the digital cultural heritage is increasing in volume, cultural heritage information must be presented in a way that optimises the potential of the information. This means for example that the online search for information needs to move from users getting only accidental results to providing them with structured results that are based on individual search needs and search patterns. It is important that the the increasing amount of cultural information does not overwhelm the users so that they stop looking if what they want is not among the top search results. We therefore need more effective mechanisms for linking information, building applications and performing searches in the cultural heritage information as relevant and useful as possible, and that is exactly what linked open data is about.

There seems, however, to be some disagreement about the concept of linked open data and what the term Linked Open Data really means. Using the Internet to distribute data does not automatically mean that data becomes available to all web users (for example e-mail communication is distribution of data over the internet). Similarly, the data that is made ​​available on the Internet is not "open" by default just because it's there. Publishing information in the form of open data means that data is licensed for free use and it is easier to make structured links to other information.To be "open", information must be lifted from its original context. The Open Data Handbook published by the Open Knowledge Foundation describes the legal, social, and technical aspects of linked open data, and provides the following definition: " Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike".

Since last year I have been involved in an EU project called Linked Heritage - Coordination of Standards and Technologies for the enrichment of Europeana. The main objective of Linked Heritage is to provide the cultural heritage portal Europeana with new data from both the public and private sector, to improve the quality of the metadata fed into Europeana and to improve the search, access and use of content in Europeana. The work in Linked Heritage is based largely on the results of a previous EU project called Athena. Linked Heritage has recently published "Your terminology as a part of the semantic web recommendations for design and management", (which can be downloaded from the project website). It is aimed primarily for people working in European cultural heritage institutions (especially museums) with recommendations on terminologies and multilingualism).

For improved search and access we need to use established standards, methods and formats. It is important to see the overall picture - although there are cultural heritage materials so peculiar that a custom-made solution for standards or formats at first glance appears to be preferable, it is often not preferable in the long run. The use of accepted standards makes it easier to develop links with data models and to take advantage of existing development of work with standardised data.

The way in which cultural institutions digitise and manage their digital cultural heritage data is the most important factor for whether their data can be a part of the Linked Open Data, both in Europeana and the Semantic Web. With various investments in digitisation already underway, it is urgent to start a broader discussion on the issue.

/ Sanja Halling, Digisam

It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future


Library of Congress, 1910-15. Photogragher unknown. No known copyright restrictions.

Looking into the future is pretty much about observing existing trends and trying to determine which one will make an impact. It does not mean keeping track of everything that happens day by day and being constantly up to date with the latest news - on the contrary it is about attentiveness, analysis and other things that take even more time.
Since many of us find it difficult to find enough time for that in everyday life, fortunately there are others who are willing to share the results of their studies. Center for the Future of Museums by the American museum association (AAM) presented their first large trend report a few months ago.
Museums and the Pulse of the Future is an easy accessible and educational report well worth reading. It is a brief report full of links to inspiring examples of museums that are able to catch up and respond creatively to new trends. Each section also imposes explicit questions about what trends mean for a society, and more specifically for the museum sector. Good! ICT is, of course, a principal element in all areas but there are two trends that are more directly related to the Digisams scope of practice. As the technology is universal, as is the Internet due to its very nature, there is a good reason to expect that these trends will also have an impact in Sweden (and not only in museums).

Every little helps ...
Everyone is talking about crowdsourcing, but what does it really mean? It is about collecting small contributions from many participants and is something more than interactive interfaces and a dialogue with an audience. Today's technology creates new opportunities for a huge number of amateur experts to contribute to the institutions' public information resources with their knowledge. They can improve the quality of museums' data with their specialised knowledge in areas such as ornithology or steamers, but also with personal based knowledge about such things as places and people in old photographs. In addition, there are time-consuming tasks  that need no expertise at all, rather the assistance of many people - such as NASA space images and Finnish Digitalkoot's transcription.
The possibilities are endless, but, as usual, new opportunities carries with them new challenges. The new approaches and practices are challenging traditional institutions and a number of established business models. At the same time it is estimated that visitors will expect more and more of topic overview and reliable knowledge. Therefore museum experts need to find positive ways to interact with the experts outside of the museum walls, in order to improve the broad-spectrum knowledge at the museums.

Look at what is not there
Augmented reality (AR) is a generic term for technologies that make it possible to add digital image, audio or video elements to the reality as you experience it, for example, through your smartphone. In combination with positioning technology (GPS) it can create unique opportunities, including new ways to reconnect museums of art and cultural resources to the places they once came from. Street Museum Londinium and NAI's Urban Augmented Reality are just a few examples of this trend that is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. As more and more people are walking around with a smartphone in their pocket - especially in Sweden – there is an increasing interest from commercial operators, but also there is a great potential for cultural institutions using AR for further enhancement of knowledge and experience. It can be used for advanced games but equally for simple solutions such as big virtual chunks of text on the walls of an exhibition.
There's a lot to think about. Can AR be useful for anyone who wants to meet a multilingual audience with various needs and interests in the best way? Will technology contribute to genuine interaction or have the opposite effect: turn away users from the actual experience and isolate them from each other? And there is also a risk of building so much on the visitors' own devices (phones and tablets) - what happens to those who have none?

The institutions need to make up their own minds on such issues, and the answers are probably partly reliant on the ongoing development. Nevertheless, there is much to gain from trying to look ahead. The future will come whether you gaze into it or not, but you will be better prepared for it if you take a bit of time to look into the new possibilities it might bring.


Johanna Berg, Digisam