Cultural Heritage Sparks

I recently went along to the first meeting of the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network here at the University of Edinburgh. The aim of the network is to

“bring together colleagues from across the University to establish a professional network for researchers investigating digital cultural heritage issues, seeking to include perspectives from diverse disciplines including design, education, sociology, law, cultural studies, informatics and business. Partners from the cultural heritage sector will play a key role in the network as advisors and collaborators.”

About DCHRN

Anyone who follows this blog will know that I have a bit of a thing about opening access to digital cultural resources so I was pleased to be able to contribute a lightning talk on digital cultural heritage and open education. This was one of an eclectic series of lightning talks that covered a wide range of subjects and topics.  I live tweeted the event and Jen Ross has collated tweets from the day in a Storify here: Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network, Workshop 1 and has also written a recap of the workshop here Recap of Workshop 1: Cultural Heritage Sparks.

My EDINA colleague Lisa Otty kicked off the day talking about the Keepers Extra Project which aims to highlight the value of the Keepers Registry of archiving arrangements for electronic journals. Lisa noted that only 17% of journals are archived in the Keepers Registry and asked the very pertinent question “do we trust publishers with the stewardship of electronic journals?” I think we all know the answer to that question.

I confess I rehashed a previous presentation on the comparative dearth of openly license cultural heritage collections in Scotland which allowed me to refer for the millionth time to Andrew Prescott’s classic blog post Dennis the Paywall Menace stalks the Archives. This time however I was able to add a couple of pertinent tweets from the Digging Into Data Round Three Conference that took place in Glasgow earlier in the week.

did_tweet_1 did_tweet_2

One lightning talk that was particularly close to my heart was by Glyn Davis who spoke about the openness, or lack thereof, of gallery and museum content, and reflected on his experience of running the Warhol MOOC.  Glyn noted that license restrictions often prevent copyright images from being used in online teaching and learning, however many of the students who participated in the Warhol MOOC understood little about copyright restrictions and simply expected to be able to find and reuse images via google, so lots of discussion about open access was required as part of the course.

Other highlights included Jen Ross‘ talk on Artcasting a project which is exploring how digital methods can be used inventively and critically to reimagine complex issues. The project has built an app which engages audiences by allowing them to capture images and decide where to send them in time and space and time, while also retrieving data for evaluation.  Bea Alex introduced the impressive range of projects from the Language Technology Group, including historical text projects, which aim to use text mining to enrich textual metadata with geodata from the Edinburgh Geo Parser. Stephen Allen spoke about the MOOC the National Museums of Scotland created to run in parallel with their Photography – A Victorian Sensation exhibition.  The museum now hopes to reuse content from future exhibitions for more MOOCs. Rebecca Sinker presented a fascinating keynote on Tate’s research-led approach to digital programming which prompted an interesting discussion on how people engage with art now that so much of it is available online. Angelica Thumala spoke all too briefly about her research exploring emotional attachment and experience of books in different modalities, and left us with one of the loveliest quotes of the day

“Books are constant companions, people carry them around and develop physical and emotional attachments to them.”

The workshop ended with four group discussions focussing on issues raised by participants; openness and preservation; participation and interpretation; semantic web and curation; and how can DCHRN create a sustainable interdisciplinary network.  These and other issues will be picked up in the next workshop Research that matters – playing with method, planning for impact takes place in March

DCHRN is coordinated by:

  • Dr Jen Ross, Digital Education
  • Dr Claire Sowton, Digital Education
  • Professor Sian Bayne, Digital Education
  • Professor James Loxley,  Literatures Languages and Culture
  • Professor Chris Speed, Design Informatics

On a side note, it’s a while since I’ve done a lightning talk and I’d forgotten how difficult it is to put together such a short presentation. Seriously, it took me most of an afternoon to put together a 5 minute talk which really is a bit ridiculous. Seems like I’m not the only one who struggles with short presentations though, when I moaned about this on twitter, a lot of people replied agreeing that the shorter the presentation, the more preparation is required. Martin Weller reminded me of the quote “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”, while Kevin Ashley invoked Jeremy Bentham who was allegedly happy to give a two hour speech on the spot, but a fifteen minute talk required three weeks notice.  I guess I’m with Bentham on that one!

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Encouraging news from the Wellcome Library and Europeana

I’m a bit pressed for time for blogging at the moment, but there have already been two news items this week that are worth highlighting.

First of all, the Wellcome Library have followed the lead of the National Portrait Gallery, the J. P. Getty Museum and many other institutions worldwide, and announced that they have made over 100,000 high resolution historical images available free of charge.  All the images, which include of manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements, carry a a CC-BY licence and can be downloaded from the Wellcome Images website.

Among many fascinating collections, Wellcome Images includes works by my favourite Georgian satirical cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson, along with his contemporaries James Gillray and George Cruikshank.

Swimming by Thomas Rowlandson

“Side way or any way” by Thomas Rowlandson

In a press release accompanying the launch, Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, said

“Together the collection amounts to a dizzying visual record of centuries of human culture, and our attempts to understand our bodies, minds and health through art and observation. As a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

The BBC also published a rather entertaining article about the collection here:  Grin and bare it: buttock cupping & other health ‘cures’.

The other announcement that caught my eye was the launch of the second release of the Europeana Open Culture app.  I haven’t had a chance to try the new app, but I haven’t had too much success searching Europreana in the past, so I’m hoping that it will be an improvement.   The new app promises to bring “enhanced functionality, new content,  a more user-friendly layout” and is available in seven languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Bulgarian, and Swedish).  The press release states:

“you can now download the hi-res image for free and use it however you want to – for your work, study or leisure projects”

However, as I haven’t had a chance to load up the app, I don’t know what licence or licences these images carry.   However the app code for the Muse (Museum in your pocket) Open Source iPad App used by Europeana is available from Github.

It’s really encouraging to see more and more museums, libraries and galleries making their content freely available under open licence, these are invaluable resources for teachers, learners and researchers worldwide.  I just hope we will see more education institutions joining them!

“The Mark of World Class Institutions”

This week saw the launch of two admirable projects that stand to make a significant contribution to global access to open educational resources. In the USA the Getty Trust announced their Open Content Programme, and in India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development launched their National Repository of Open Educational Resources.

The aim of the Getty Open Content Programme is to make available, free of charge

all digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required.

In the first instance almost five thousand images from the J. Paul Getty Museum have been made available, with plans to add images from the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute in the future. There are also plans to open access to the Getty Vocabularies and outputs of the Conservation Institute’s field projects.
In an article in The Getty Iris titled Open Content, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, the Getty’s CEO, James Cuno, explained the motivation for the Open Content Programme:
getty_ocp_banner

The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief. This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity.

Cuno goes on to refer to the discussion of open content in the Horizon Report, Museum Edition which stated

it is now the mark—and social responsibility—of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.

Adding “I agree wholeheartedly.” And so do I!

The approach adopted by the Getty Open Content Programme is interesting as they make no attempt to restrict access to their resources on the basis of how they will be used. Unlike the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum in the UK, who will only allow their images to be used free of charge for non-commercial purposes, there are no restrictions on using Getty images commercially.

When downloading an image users are presented with a simple form which requires them to select their status (private individual, not-for-profit organization, for-profit company, other) and how they intend to use the resrource (publication, personal, non-commercial, commercial, other). Submission of this information is compulsory in order to access the image, however the form states that the information is being collected so that “so that we may continue to improve access to our content.”

getty_download

There are a few conditions placed on the use of images, though it’s debatable whether these can be regarded as “restrictions” in any sense of the word:

Users are requested to use the following source credit when reproducing an image, Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

When using open content images, you should not suggest or imply that the Getty endorses, approves of, or participated in your projects.

The small print of the Open Content Images Terms of Use states that:

Some images may include people or objects for which a third party may claim rights such as trademark, copyright, privacy, or publicity rights. The Getty does not warrant that all of the images designated for downloading are free from rights claimed by third parties. As the user, it is your responsibility to ensure that there are no restrictions based on third party rights. The Getty assumes no liability for your use of these images if a third party makes an infringement claim.

And finally:

Getty would appreciate a gratis copy of any scholarly publications in which the images are reproduced in order to maintain the collection bibliography.

It’s also interesting to note that Getty have completely bypassed Creative Commons, and in fact their OCP images don’t appear to carry any licence at all! I’m very curious as to why this particular approach was taken and what the potential pros can cons are of releasing images without any obvious licence. That coda aside, I think this is a hugely admirable project and I hope other heritage institutions around the world are encouraged to consider opening access to the wealth of resources they hold.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development announced the launch of the National Repository of Open Educational Resources. The aim of the repository, which is build on a platform developed by Gnowledge Labs, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, is to:

bring together all digital and digitisable resources for the school system – for all classes, for all subjects and in all languages.

And it’s objectives are to:

• To enhance the quality of teaching-learning
• To facilitate teachers to create and share contextualized teaching learning resources
• To celebrate innovations in resource creation

india_oer

Although I haven’t had a chance to explore the collections in any great detail, far less to investigate the platform, one interesting facet of the project is that the repository uses a growing map of semantic concepts to group and organise resources.  The press release states that:

The concept map itself is a learning resource for teachers, providing an opportunity for critically assessing the curriculum and aiding the construction of their own unique learning themes for their classrooms. The digital resources – documents, audio-visuals, interactive objects, images are mapped to the concepts. This enables access to a library from which teachers can choose appropriate resources.

india_oer_concept

It’s an interesting approach and, if the repository really takes off, it will be fascinating to see how this works at scale.

The repository and all its materials carry a CC BY SA licence and while there are no conditions or restrictions placed on  downloading resources, users must complete a captcha before adding comments to resources held in the repository.

Although the repository already contains an impressive collection of content, the metadata is, dare I say it, a little thin at present. For example, images are accompanied by topic tags and the date and the name of the person who contributed them, however very little information is provided about the provenance of the image, where or when it was taken, and who the creator was. Hopefully this is information that will be added as the repository develops.

It’s great to see two high profile open content initiatives being launched within the same week and I very much hope they will encourage others to follow suit.