Europeana: Intriguing mix of Needs, Climate and Politics.
Ever realized how much information is available outside of the general source you use, i.e. the Internet? Probably not. Yet, companies and government are creating, collecting and storing vast amounts of information. Companies use this information mainly for their daily operation, marketing and intelligence. The governmental organization also use information for their processes of course. But they have additional purposes. This might mean they have a cultural heritage obligation, like museums, (national) libraries and archives, to store and preserve large amounts of information and data for a very long time. Libaries are the best example of long term accessibility of information with ancients books over hundreds of years old. Their information helps citizens having access to knowledge on politics, governmental laws and local government processes. With the up rise of the digital nomads, the need for accessing all this information has become higher in the last couple of years. Realizing that they were sitting on a huge amount of valuable data and information and acknowledging the needs for information availability, the European national libraries, archives and museums started a cooperation called ‘Europeana’. The main goal of Europeana are to: • Aggregate, to build the open trusted source for European cultural heritage content. • Facilitate, to support the cultural heritage sector through knowledge transfer, innovation and advocacy. • Distribute, to make European heritage available to users wherever they are, whenever they want it • Engage, to cultivate new ways for users to participate in their cultural heritage.
In effect, according to Jon Purday, Senior Communications Advisor for Europeana, it is a portal for the metadata which refers to all the institutes content. This has advantages for maintaining the data, both from control and quality point of view but also because of long term digital preservation, API’s and copyright legislation. Of course it is complex, both technically as well as from a datamanagement point of view. Having tried Dublin Core as overall standard, they quickly discovered that a more complex datamodel was needed, which was now custom designed by the means of Professor Stefan Graffman. From a data management point of view Europeana, its goals and achievements are already exciting. Jon Purday also mentions the planned steps for the future. Europeana is involved in so-called ‘hackathons’, which are held in several European countries. In these hackathons, not only researchers use the available content. It is now also discovered by people which use the content for creative new projects and innovative ideas. (more information on hackathons, their intentions and outcomes so far can be found on: www.europeana.eu). The Europeana initiative shows the possibilities of opening up available data for a common use, creating a concept of ‘linked open data’, but in a structured way. Of course, Europeana is at the right place at the right moment. People are so used to open data that they almost expect to have access to relevant information. The European Union (which generated the project) delivers strong political support, creating the right climate. So when conditions are right and you are able to look at data in a new and innovative way, the sky seems the limit.